Human rights lawyer Femi Falana asks Nigerian army to stop targeting Amnesty International

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Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, has asked the Nigerian Army to end “attack, harassment and intimidation of Amnesty International” and address a myriad of allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses against soldiers. 

Falana’s comments in a statement came after the Nigerian Army claimed without evidence that the rights group was “working hard” with Boko Haram terrorists “to destabilize the country.”

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“I am very concerned that rather than telling Nigerians what they would do to address the very damaging allegations made by Amnesty International of grave human rights abuses against the Nigerian Army and other security agencies the Army is targeting Amnesty simply for working to hold the Army to account,” Falana wrote.

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He said it was not just Amnesty International that had found the Nigerian military in serious violations of human rights and dignity, “the Nigerian military has also been indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Presidential Panel on Procurement of Arms and Ammunition, Judicial Commissions of Enquiry and the International Criminal Court (ICC) on gross human rights abuse and war crimes which are similar to the allegations documented by Amnesty International.”

Falana’s statement read in part: “The Army should accept responsibility and allow Amnesty International to carry out its human rights work. Stigmatising and maligning the very organizations that stand for human rights would be inconsistent with Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and international law, and portray the Army as attempting to cover up the allegations.”

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“Contrary to the false claim of the Army, the Muhammadu Buhari government in 2016 instituted a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuses by the Nigerian Armed Forces in the North-east region and other parts of the country. The panel confirmed grave human rights abuses by the military. Unfortunately, the government has not been able to release the report. Further, the government has not released the White Paper on the panel’s findings.”

“However, many of the hundreds of people being detained in Giwa Barrack and other detention centres have either been released or charged to court. But the Army previously dismissed the allegations of human rights abuse of the detainees.”

“The Nigerian Army killed 347 Shiites in Zaria in December 2015 under the pretext that there was a plot to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai. The Judicial Commission of Enquiry instituted by Governor  Nasir Elrufai of Kaduna State dismissed the basis of the massacre and recommended the prosecution of the culprits. But as the indicted officers and the troops were not prosecuted for conspiracy and culpable homicide the Army again opened fire on another group of Shiites in Abuja in October 2018.  At the end of the attack, 52 Shiites were killed in cold blood. Even though the soldiers who committed the reckless massacre in Abuja have been identified in a video they will not be brought to trial for now!”

“In all of these incidents and several others, Amnesty International and other human rights bodies have conducted investigated and indicted the criminal elements who bear most responsibility for the crimes against humanity and other egregious human rights violations committed against the Nigerian people. It is because of these unresolved allegations that the Army is now mounting pressure on the Federal Government to expel Amnesty International.”

“Last week, the Army did the same thing to UNICEF, an institution that is doing so much to protect the human rights of Nigerian children in difficult circumstances in the North-east region and across the country. We are not unaware that the Nigerian authorities did not like the recent  report by UNICEF that 13.2 million Nigerian children are out of school, sadly the highest number in the world.”

“We are also aware that some senior military officers are standing trial for alleged criminal diversion of several billions of Naira earmarked for the purchase of arms and ammunition for counter insurgency operations. This sad development has prolonged the war on terror being prosecuted by the Federal Government.”

Mr. Falana also recalled that President Buhari had personally assured the leadership of Amnesty International that all allegations of human rights by the military would be investigated and that anyone implicated would be sanctioned.  The Senate had also passed a resolution to probe the various allegations of human rights abuse by the members of the armed forces. But due to the failure of the Nigerian Government to ensure compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights’ obligations and rules of engagement and specifically to investigate allegations of human rights abuses levelled against the military by Amnesty International and other foreign and local human rights organisations the International Criminal Court has been inundated with petitions alleging human rights abuse by the Nigerian military and failure of the Government to bring the perpetrators to book. 

According to the human rights lawyer, “the ICC has recently revealed that it received a total of 169 communications from Nigeria and its assessment has shown that security forces in Nigeria have committed war crimes varying from murder, torture, and intentionally attacking the civilian population.Specifically, the Office found a reasonable basis to believe that security forces committed the war crimes of murder, torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population.”

Mr. Falana urged the Authorities of the Nigerian Army to stop chasing the shadow by mounting pressure on the Buhari administration to close down the offices of Amnesty International and UNICEF in Nigeria. To prevent the arraignment of the indicted military officers before the International Criminal Court, the Federal Government is advised to obtain the report of the Prosecutor with a view to  embarking on  the immediate  prosecution of the suspects. Furthermore, the Federal Government should prosecute the military personal indicted by the two judicial commissions of enquiry as well as the Presidential Panel on Arms Procurement.

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