RIGHTSView, By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO: Amnesty International: Is Gen. Ihejirika Guilty As Charged?

Posted by News Express | 6 June 2015 | 2,958 times

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Human rights groups that are operationally based in the United Kingdom and the United States of America such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch can comfortably lay claim to playing significant roles in bringing about civil activism by indigenous patriots born and bred in places considered as Third World or developing nations. These Western-based organisations enjoy greater patronage from their home nations and powerful lobby platforms. 

In the days of military dictatorship in Nigeria, such internationally recognised organisations were at the forefront of galvanising global support and solidarity for local groups campaigning for the restoration of civil rule and respect for human rights of Nigerians.

But since the advent of civil democracy – particularly since the last three years that the Nigerian state has consistently faced a barrage of terrorist invasions and bloody attacks masterminded by a range of freelance armed insurgents, among which Boko Haram in the north-eastern Nigeria ranks first – these two international groups have played suspicious anti-Nigerian people’s roles. They, alongside their home governments, have antagonised Nigeria’s effort to defeat these terrorists. And the recent decision of the Federal Government to go eastwards, and look towards China and Russia for greater multi-lateral partnerships hasn’t gone down well with the USA and United Kingdom. So, the renewed vicious antagonisms of these western-based groups may have formidable but covert support of their home governments. 

These groups have consistently engaged in global wide advocacy campaigns castigating the Nigerian Military Institutions and graphically painting them as aggressors who wantonly violate the human rights of terrorists.

Because of some of these jaundiced reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which portrays Nigerian military as perpetual abusers of human rights, the government of the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan totally lost out by way of not winning the confidence of the leaders of military powers of the USA, UK and Israel. And the negative tendencies of these organisations led to large scale frustrations of every governmental effort to equip the Nigerian Army to confront the emerging threats to Nigeria’s national security and to defend its territorial integrity from the bombardments of armed terrorists.

Because of the adverse reports by these organisations that have no physical offices in Nigeria but make use of local groups; and because of the refusal of the western powers to sell weapons to Nigeria, these terrorists for six months sacked many towns and communities, leading to the wanton destruction of lives and property of Nigerians.

The armed terrorists completely ravaged and destroyed Baga town in Borno State, killing over 5,000 persons. And, in all, over 20,000 Nigerians have lost their lives to the activities of these armed Islamists, even as over a million Nigerians are now internally displaced, with hundreds-of-thousands of others trooping into neighbouring countries as refugees.

The excruciating pain and bitter experiences of these victims of terrorism in Nigeria are not the immediate concern and focus of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Rather, they have consistently written reports to play up the alleged human rights violations suffered by these suspected mass killers, especially those caught in the line of fire.

It is true that human rights abuses should not be encouraged, even if those facing these abuses are armed terrorists, but the one-sided reports of these Euro-American groups have forced people of goodwill to ask whether they are working for the terrorists.

Amnesty International just came out with a report in which they focused on the condition of detention centres in the military institutions, just as they accused the Nigerian military of killing over 8,000 suspected terrorists in detention. 

Amnesty International then proceeded to list out some top former and serving Nigerian Generals who should be indicted and prosecuted for war crime by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. 

It submitted this hogwash of a report to the International Criminal Court before releasing it to the reading public. The report contains many fallacious conclusions lacking in substantial logic and, therefore, amounted to a jaundiced hatchet job for some Fifth Columnists who do not wish Nigeria well.

The timing of the release of this report to coincide with the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari, to the military to crush Boko Haram, is being interpreted to mean that this UK group is working to promote the interest of the armed terrorists and is seeking to undermine the resolve of Nigeria’s new government to crush Boko Haram.

If these military service chiefs, both retired and serving, erroneously listed for prosecution for the so-called war crimes in the West are rounded up, what Amnesty International is targeting to achieve is to demoralise the military forces now battling the terrorists in the North-east and to weaken their fighting morale and motivation. This bad report must be thrown into the garbage bin.

To fully understand how hollow this report is, we will delve briefly to quote some aspects of the executive summary of the report, titled: “Stars on their shoulders, Blood on their hands, war crimes committed by the Nigerian military.”

The London-based group wrote: “In the course of security operations against Boko Haram in North-east Nigeria, Nigerian military forces have extra-judicially executed more than 1,200 people; they have arbitrarily arrested at least 20,000 people, most young men and boys; and have committed countless acts of torture. Hundreds, if not thousands of Nigerians have become victims of enforced disappearance, and at least 7,000 people have died in military detention as a result of starvation, extreme overcrowding and denial of medical assistance.”

These narratives are not evidenced-based and lack scientific propriety since no medical records were attached to determine the cause of deaths of these phantom 8,000 'killed' Boko Haram detainees as alleged by AI.

To demonstrate that this group has a preconceived agenda to run down the credibility of the Nigerian military, it also poured out conclusions that are so illogical, very irrational and fallacious. They ended up playing the role of prosecutors and judges at the same time, by listing out those to be indicted to include Lit.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika. It was during his tenure as chief of army staff that the noble idea of a civil/military human rights department was created. The department worked actively to enlighten soldiers on the rules of engagement during internal operations while the sanctity of human rights was promoted.

Amnesty International, in its haste to nail their perceived enemy Gen Ihejirika and a few others, failed to properly understand the doctrine of superior/command responsibility. “In the light of its findings in this report, Amnesty International believes that the following military officers should be investigated for the war crimes of murder, enforced disappearance and torture: Major-General John A. H. Ewansiha; Major-General Obida T. Ethan; Major-General Ahmadu Mohammed; Brigadier-General Austin O. Edokpayi; Brigadier-General RO Bamigboye. Others listed were Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika; Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim and Lt-Gen Ken Minimah.” 

The elementary doctrine of superior/command responsibility when properly examined, shows that Amnesty International was wrong in reaching those conclusions.

The Peace and Justice Initiative in a report stated that: “Command or superior responsibility” is often misunderstood. First, it is not a form of objective liability whereby a superior could be held criminally responsible for crimes committed by subordinates of the accused, regardless of his conduct and regardless of what his knowledge of these crimes. 

“The commission of one or more crimes attributable to a subordinate is a pre-requisite for the application of that doctrine. In addition, the following requirements have been identified as forming part of the doctrine of superior responsibility under customary international law:A relationship of superior-subordinate linking the accused and those who committed the underlying offences at the time of the commission of the crime; the knowledge on the part of the superior that his subordinates have committed or taken a culpable part in the commission of a crime or are about to do so; and a failure on the part of the superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or to punish those crimes.”

From available data, I am aware that Gen Ihejirika had on a number of times made it abundantly clear that those directly in the chain of command on ground in the North-east must comply with the rules of engagement and respect human rights.

The military detention centres are directly under supervisory purview of Chief of Defence Staff and has nothing to do with the Chief of Army Staff.

Besides, the counter terrorism war is coordinated by the National Security Adviser. In this report, Amnesty International left out the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Defence staff from 2010 to 2012. Why the sinister omissions?

Gen Ihejirika is known as the officer who made sure that terrorists in the North- east were kept on the run. And, before he retired, he almost succeeded in defeating them.

The issue of poor conditions of prisons and detention centres are national problems that require comprehensive panacea and so must not be blamed on some good Nigerians like Ihejirika or Alex Badeh who have sacrificed so much to protect Nigerians from the attacks of our enemies.

Real patriotic Nigerians admire his sterling qualities and only sympathisers and sponsors of Boko Haram are in the forefront of those castigating Gen Ihejirika’s or indeed Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh’s good names, because they fought these terrorists to a standstill. In the case of Alex Badeh who is still serving, the traditional Northern military dislikes his phenomenal promotion, because he is from a Northern minority tribe in Adamawa State.

President Buhari must not allow Amnesty International to distract him if, indeed, his government wants to eradicate Boko Haram and restore lasting peace to all parts of Nigeria.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


Source: News Express

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