The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) on Monday called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the massacre of nearly 1000 civilians in Nigeria last December when soldiers allegedly attacked the Islamic Movement of Nigeria’s (IMN) supporters, symbols and property. The army had said that it was attacked and was only defending itself.
“The scale and brutality of this massacre and unwillingess of the Nigerian government to implement due process makes it essential for the international court to investigate. The failure of the international community to act against atrocities on this scale stands to have grave consequences,” said IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh.
The assault over two days in the northern Nigerian city left a trail of bloodshed and destruction, including the shooting of the movement’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat. Both are currently believed to be in military custody, detained without charge.
In the filing submitted to the ICC on Monday, IHRC said “the crimes committed between the 12th and 14th December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna State, by the Nigerian army amount to crimes against humanity. The crimes committed by the Nigerian army meet all the necessary legal requirements to warrant a preliminary investigation by the ICC prosecutor.”
It said information it obtained indicated that 217 people were confirmed killed in the attacks, another 219 are in detention, and 482 are still missing. The number of injured is believed to run into many hundreds. IHRC’s filing to the ICC is largely based on eye-witness evidence of the army’s assault, the organisation added.
The organisation said evidence suggests that “the army’s assault was a systematic and pre-planned attempt to snuff out the IMN whose growing popularity have made it a thorn in the side of Nigerian governments. A similar army assault in July 2014 during a religious preocession led to the deaths of 34 IMN members including three sons of Sheikh Zakzaky who were apparently singled out for execution”.
It added: “The majority of deaths were caused by gunshots fired by soldiers and cases of people being burnt alive have also emerged.
“Injuries caused by machetes or other knife wounds have also been found on the corpses, and could be the work of the criminal groups that perpetrated acts of looting and mutilation alongside the military. Signs of torture and electrocution have been evidenced on the body of the IMN leader Sheikh Zakzaky and other detainees, two of whom died as a result thereof.
“Sexual violence has also been reported, including cases of rape against women affiliates of the IMN. A 14-year old female witness told IHRC that the military shot her in her private parts when she resisted attempts by soldiers to rape her. Some women reportedly had their breasts cut off and others were deliberatelly shot in the pelvic region damaging their uteri.
“Photographic evidence has been obtained along with testimonies of mass graves where the army is reported to have buried fatalities from the killing spree. Some corpses were allegedly incinerated, apparently in order to conceal any evidence”.
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