It is time to get tough

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The Independent Online
No one should mistake the message that the Nigerian military dictatorship sent yesterday to the world. In executing Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others, the regime has demonstrated contempt both for decency and appeals for clemency from the international community.By hanging the nine on the same day as the Commonwealth heads of government meeting opened in New Zealand, the Nigerian regime has shown that diplomatic pressure will not temper its actions. It is now time for much tougher international action.

Saro-Wiwa's conviction on murder charges was a travesty. He had been tortured and his trial violated the basic norms of justice. His conviction was the result of his brave campaign on behalf of the Ogoni people.

Yesterday's hangings make Commonwealth leaders look feeble. They failed to recognise the intransigence of the dictatorship and vainly hoped that protests and calls for mercy would soften the Nigerian military.

South Africa's self-appointed role as a regional superpower has been undermined by this episode. Before the executions, President Nelson Mandela backed "quiet persuasion of Nigeria".

Britain, President Mandela and others must now drop their opposition to economic sanctions. The only weapon the corrupt regime in Lagos will respect is an embargo on Nigeria's oil. Commonwealth leaders and the European Union should impose sanctions forthwith. And they should maintain them until Nigeria's soldier leaders organise free elections. As the example of South Africa shows, sanctions can work. The courage of Saro-Wiwa and his commitment to human rights demands nothing less than the toughest response.