Posted by News Express | 24 August 2017 | 1,556 times
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) also known as Shiites has sent a letter to the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces stating their observations and concerns over the recently inaugurated Presidential Investigation Panel to probe human rights abuses by the military in the country.
The letter dated 17th August, 2017 and signed on behalf of the Movement by Professor Abdullahi Danladi, described the human rights records of the Nigerian Army as dismal and wondered why despite repeated calls from the Movement and other credible international rights bodies like Amnesty International it took this length of time to set up one.
“We had written a letter to you in early 2016 urging you to set a process to timeously have an independent judicial commission of inquiry with the supervisions of international community that would unearth the truth on the matter rather than wait for any report of a biased party to the incident as you had doggedly maintained you would at the time (especially during your maiden media chat), but you did not heed our call and certainly, never even contemplated setting up any such panel.”
The IMN expressed doubts over the sincerity behind setting this panel at this point in time.
“It would appear that setting up of this panel may be related to a quick attempt at convincing (or more appropriately deceiving) the US government into selling weapons to it,” the IMN stated. It also accused the Nigerian government of trying to trick the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague presently investigating the Zaria massacre of December 2015 into believing that it is now willing and also able to investigate and dispense justice in that regard.
IMN quarried: “In what ways will this Presidential Investigation Panel be different from what the judicial commission of inquiry into Zaria incident set up by the Kaduna State government?”
It said the composition of the Presidential panel, which involves members of the Kaduna Commission and the military panel that earlier absolved the Army of blame, as well as representatives of the military, the Police and other security agencies does not instil confidence in the process at all. It noted that exclusion of notable reputable rights bodies and victims representatives was unfair considering that the assailants are fully represented. “The sum of all this is that the independence and impartiality of this new panel is not in any way guaranteed,” the letter posits.
It kicked against the systematic refusal of free access to the panel for their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and others being detained even against valid court judgement, and observed that there were no provisions put in place for them to make their appearance and presentations at the panel as free citizens.
The letter also wondered how the panel is going to tackle what the Kaduna Commission already established as a matter of fact, even without the participation of IMN or its legal representatives, that there was “use of excessive and disproportionate force by the Nigerian Army against members of the IMN leading to massacre of hundreds” as reported by the Commission. IMN quoted the Commission’s report copiously to buttress this point and align this with similar reports by Amnesty International, which talked about “mass slaughter of hundreds of men, women and children by soldiers in Zaria and the attempted cover-up of this crime,” demonstrating “an utter contempt for human life and accountability.”
IMN asked what was the point of this Presidential Panel when all previous reports had already established that “the actions of troops by the Nigerian Army were found to be contrary to Rules of Proportionality by International Standards.”
IMN also noted that Army officers never ever cooperated with previous inquiries and believes that the same would play out in the presidential panel. It noted how army officers blatantly denied killing IMN members and digging mass graves, even after confessions by Kaduna State officials with whom they closely worked.
The IMN concluded the letter by describing the government as one in denial because it refuses to acknowledge military excesses in handling civil matters. Consequently, “No prosecutions, no remorse and no public apologies!” The IMN stated that they still expect some national words of condolence to the families that lost their dear ones and were buried in mass graves, adding that, “We believe that those Nigerian lives matter.”
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