Posted by Nelson Dafe, Benin | 4 June 2015 | 2,968 times
Amnesty International and the Nigerian Military yesterday crossed swords over the former’s allegation of war crimes, and demand for the trial of some Nigerian army chiefs in connection with the alleged crimes.
In a lengthy piece, the leading human rights organisation’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said high-ranking officers of the Nigerian military should be “investigated for their role in the mass deaths of more than 8,000 people — shot, starved, suffocated, and tortured to death” in the course of the war against Boko Haram terrorists.
In the OP-ED titled ‘STARS ON THEIR SHOULDERS, BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS’, Shetty said: “We have found that more than 7,000 young men and boys died in military detention since March 2011. In addition, more than 1,200 people were rounded-up and unlawfully killed by the military since February 2012.”
The report goes on to say: “Leaked internal military documents show categorically that senior military officials were regularly updated on the high rates of deaths among detainees through daily field reports, letters, and assessment reports sent by field commanders to the defence and army headquarters. Nigeria’s military leadership therefore knew, or should have known, about the nature and scale of the crimes being committed.”
Severally in the past, the Nigerian Government had sought to deny any complicity of its military in gross violations of human rights, but Shetty maintained that “Nigerian Government cannot dismiss its own internal military documents. It cannot ignore testimonies from witnesses and high-ranking military whistle blowers. And it cannot deny the existence of emaciated and mutilated bodies piled on mortuary slabs and dumped in mass graves.”
Amnesty International named nine senior military officers whom it “believes that the following high-level military commanders should be investigated for their potential command responsibility for crimes committed by their subordinates given that they knew or should have known about the commission of the crimes, and failed to take adequate action.” They include Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, and Chief of Army staff, Lt. General Ken Minimah.
Shetty ends the piece by stressing that “Nigeria has the ability to properly investigate these crimes and President (Muhammadu) Buhari’s statements indicate he has the will to make it happen. There is no time to waste.”
The Nigerian Military was, however, quick in dismissing the allegations, accusing Amnesty International of blackmail.
Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, said in a statement:
“The Defence Headquarters has noted with dismay the gruesome allegations made by the Amnesty International against some senior military officers serving and retired of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is unfortunate that all effort made in the allegation was geared towards continuation of blackmail against the military hierarchy in which the organisation had embarked upon as far back as the inception of military’s action against terrorist in the North East.
“The officers mentioned in the report have no reason, whatsoever, to indulge in the allegation made against them. It is unfortunate that the organisation just went out to gather names of specified senior officers, in a calculated attempt to rubbish their reputation as well as the image of the military. The action, no doubt, depicts more of a premeditated indictment aimed at discrediting the country for whatever purpose.
“Each of the previous allegations had been thoroughly responded to and cleared in the public and officially. The title down to the body of the allegation smacks of the extreme bias, which is disturbing coming from an otherwise reputable organisation that is expected to be Just and fair to all. Unfortunately in this case, has taken a premeditated position, which is far from noble.
“It is curious that a body that has never been able to seriously condemn terror in Nigeria now claims to have done an extensive research with the aim of discrediting the nation’s effort at curtailing terror.
“It is clear that Amnesty International (AI) becomes more active in presenting distractive allegations whenever the terrorists are losing ground in the battle. It is very unfortunate that Amnesty International has used this report to further confirm its questionable interest in the counter-terrorism effort in Nigeria.
“It will be recalled that the Joint Investigation Team was set up by the Defence Headquarters as part and parcel of efforts to ensure that no detainee suffer unjustly. The detention facilities were thrown open for visits and inspections by independent bodies such as International Committee of the Red Cross and other reputable international organisations and personalities.
“Amnesty International is advised to stop playing the role of an irritant coming up loudly only when the terrorists are losing out and remaining silent or complacent whenever the terrorist heightens its atrocities. It is unfair to persist in effort to discredit Nigerian military by seeking all avenues to stigmatise individual officers of the nation’s military purely to satisfy an agenda against the security agencies and image of Nigeria before the international community.
“The Nigerian Armed Forces is quite conscious of the fact that the operation has prompted the need to save citizens from abuse of their rights by mindless terrorists. Accordingly, the forces have continued to state and restate its commitment to the rights of Nigerians and all its citizens while prosecuting its anti-terrorism campaign. It is very unfortunate that Amnesty International has chosen to ignore all the responses and clarifications provided to its enquiries by the authorities.
“It is unfair to rely on records or reports provided by certain disgruntled elements or faceless collaborators who have axe to grind with the system as evidence against officers who have been conscientiously doing their duty to defend the nation and her citizens.
“For avoidance of doubt, the Nigerian military does not encourage or condone abuse of human rights neither will any proven case be left unpunished. The kind of impunity being alleged by Amnesty International has no place in the Nigerian military. Every officer in the field is responsible for his action and is duly held accountable. So far, no allegation has been sufficiently proved against those whom Amnesty International is so desperate to convict.
“The statistics are largely spurious or manipulated to satisfy a clandestine motive. Indeed, the loud publicity given to these damning allegations suggests an intention to blackmail the military and particular senior officers rather than a sincere advice to the government. This cruel tendency is not new, despite the timing.
“The Nigerian Military therefore rejects the biased and concocted report provided by Amnesty International. Additional definite response will be provided subsequently as deemed necessary.”
•Photo shows Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.
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