The Amnesty International yesterday accused the Nigerian military and Boko Haram of war crimes in the operations in the northern part of the country, saying that fresh evidences have proved human rights violations and heinous as well as extrajudicial killings.
Reacting to this, the Defence Headquarters stated that the military takes the case of human rights violation seriously, while stating that the allegation was too grievous to be associated with the military.
In its report released yesterday, the Amnesty International stated that video footage, images and testimonies it gathered had provide “fresh evidence of war crimes, including extrajudicial executions, and other serious human rights violations being carried out in north-eastern Nigeria as the fight by the military against Boko Haram and other armed groups intensifies.”
The report signed by Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, stated that video footage Amnesty International obtained during trips to Borno State reveals multiple war crimes being carried out in Nigeria by the military and Boko Haram.
It stated: “It includes horrific images of detainees having their throats slit one by one and dumped in mass graves by men who appear to be members of the Nigerian military and the “Civilian Joint Task Force” (CJTF), state-sponsored militias. It also shows the aftermath of a Boko Haram raid on a village in which the armed group killed nearly 100 people and destroyed or badly damaged scores of homes and other buildings.
“This shocking new evidence is further proof of the appalling crimes being committed with abandon by all sides in the conflict. Nigerians deserve better – what does it say when members of the military carry out such unspeakable acts and capture the images on film?”
Amnesty International stated that it did not expect such evidence and report “from a government, which sees itself as having a leadership role in Africa,” adding: “The ghastly images are backed up by the numerous testimonies we have gathered which suggest that extrajudicial executions are, in fact, regularly carried out by the Nigerian military and CJTF.”
it alleged that more than 4,000 people have been killed this year alone in the conflict by the Nigerian military and Boko Haram, including more than 600 extrajudicially executed following the Giwa Barracks attack on 14 March in Maiduguri.
“In recent months, the conflict has intensified in north-eastern Nigeria, spreading to smaller towns and villages which are now increasingly on the front line. In July 2014 Damboa in Borno state became the first town to fall under the control of Boko Haram since President Goodluck Jonathan declared the State of Emergency in May 2013,” Amnesty stated.
Amnesty International called on the Nigerian authorities to ensure that the military stops committing human rights and humanitarian law violations, stating: “All reports of extrajudicial executions and other war crimes and serious violations must be investigated promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially, with those responsible – up the entire chain of command – brought to justice.”
The group said that Boko Haram and other armed groups were also responsible for a huge number of heinous crimes, “like the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok more than three months ago, but the military are supposed to defend people, not to carry out further abuses themselves.”
Giving details of evidence, the report stated: “The footage obtained by Amnesty International includes a gruesome incident that took place near Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on 14 March 2014. It shows what appear to be members of the Nigerian military and CJTF using a blade to slit the throats of a series of detainees, before dumping them into an open mass grave.
“The video shows 16 young men and boys seated in a line. One by one, they are called forward and told to lie down in front of the pit. Five of them are killed in this way; the fate of the remaining detainees is not shown on video, but eyewitness accounts confirmed that nine of them had their throats cut while the others were shot to death.
“Additional footage featuring some of the same perpetrators, taken earlier that day at the same location, shows two detainees digging a grave under armed guard before the killing is carried out. One is told to lie down in front of the pit, where his legs and head are held by what seem to be CJTF members. The individual who appears to be the commander of the group puts his right foot on the man’s side, raises his knife, kisses it and shouts “Die hard Commando” and cuts the throat of the restrained young man. All other military and CJTF shout “Yes oga (boss), kill him.”
The report stated that Amnesty International spoke to several military sources, who independently confirmed that the armed captors in the video were indeed military personnel, stating: “According to two credible sources, they may be part of the 81 Battalion, which is based in Borno State.”
On Boko Haram atrocities, the report stated: “Like many other communities in north-eastern Nigeria, Bama’s residents have been living in constant fear of attacks by Boko Haram and other armed groups. These are sometimes believed to be in retaliation for what the armed groups deem to be the local residents’ co-operation with the Nigerian military. Many of the attacks are met with little resistance by the military.
“Boko Haram staged its most deadly assault on the town over the course of several hours early in the morning of 19 February 2014, which locals report left almost 100 people dead and more than 200 injured. Improvised explosive devices and grenades were used to destroy huge swathes of the town.”
Quoting a Bama resident, “insurgents had a field day, killing, burning and demolishing,” Amnesty International added: “Video footage taken in the aftermath of the attack shows the charred remains of numerous cars and buildings, including fire damage to the top floor of the local Emir’s (Shehu’s) palace. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that schools and other administrative buildings were also bombed or torched, and more than 100 residents’ vehicles were destroyed.
Amnesty International also called for “an immediate, independent, impartial and thorough investigation into the pattern of serious and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all sides that is emerging in north-eastern Nigeria.
Reacting to the Amnesty report, The Defence Headquarters, in a statement by Major General Chris Olukolade, director, Defence Information stated that military takes the issue of human rights seriously and will never condone any proved case of abuse by its personnel.
The military also stated that it was “deeply concerned about the set of video footage being circulated and which unfortunately has also become reference data for Amnesty International in its report,” adding: “Much as the scenes depicted in these videos are alien to our operations and doctrines, it has to be investigated to ensure that such practices have not crept, surreptitiously into the system.
“The Defence Headquarters considers these allegations too grievous to be associated with Nigerian troops, considering the doctrinal and operational contents of the training imparted to personnel on a continuous basis; emphasising the importance of respect for human rights and dignity of human person as well as observance of humanitarian laws.”
The military stated that despite cases of impersonations in the counter terrorism operations it “view those grave allegations very seriously, more so as it borders on the integrity of the ongoing counter-terrorism operation, which must be sustained in the interest of our national survival.
“Consequently, the Defence Headquarters, in addition to the already existing Joint Investigation Team (JIT), has constituted a team of senior officers and legal cum forensic experts to study the video footage and the resultant allegations of infractions in order to ascertain the veracity of the claims with a view to identifying those behind such acts. This will further determine and stimulate necessary legal action against any personnel or anyone found culpable in accordance with the provisions of the law.”
The statement stated that the military would not condone “any action or inaction that tramples on the right to life of any Nigerian. The ultimate objective of Nigeria’s counter-terrorism operation is the complete cessation of the heinous and barbaric activities of the terrorists and to stamp out every vestige of terrorism in our country with the application of international best practices in such operations.”