Amnesty accuses Nigeria of abuses on terror war

R-L-Steve Crawshaw, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International and Lucy Freeman (1)

Nnamdi Felix / Abuja

The Amnesty International on Thursday in Abuja release its report on the observed atrocities carried out by the dreaded Islamic fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram as well as the serious human rights violations perpetrated by Nigerian security operatives in response to these acts of terrorism, including enforced disappearance, torture, extra judicial executions, torching of homes and detention without trials.

The report titled Nigeria: Trapped in the circle of violence, documents these violent acts by Boko Haram and the response of the Nigerian security forces against persons suspected to be members of the sect.

Presenting the report to the public in Abuja, the Secretary General of the global body, Mr. Salil Shetty, noted that the cycle of attack and counter attack had been marked by unlawful violence on both sides, with devastating consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the middle.

“People are living in climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them” Salil stated.

The Secretary General pointed out that grave human rights abuses have been committed by Boko Haram including murder, burning down schools and churches and attacking media houses and journalists and stated that the report documents the increasing climate of fear where people are too scared to report crimes and journalists will not cover them out of fear for their own safety.

The report gave hard knocks on security agencies which, it claims, had acted with little regard for rule of law and human rights in their actions targeting Boko Haram elements.

“Hundreds of people accused of having links with to Moko Haram have been arbitrarily detained by a combination of the Joint Task Force, JTF, a combined forces group commissioned by the President to restore law and order in areas affected by Boko Haram” the report states.

It also states that many have remained in detention facility for lengthy periods without charge or trial, without proper notification of family members, without being brought before any judicial authority, and without access to lawyers or the outside world. It further states that a significant number of these people have been extra judicially executed.

The global body also stated that a delegation of its members visited Kano and Borno states and the Federal Capital Territory between February and July and interviewed victims of attacks, family members of people who have been killed, arrested or detained and those whose houses had been burnt down. It also met with key government ministers, representatives of security forces, judges, teachers, journalists and lawyers.

It however claimed that its members were denied access to prisons, police stations, military or state security service detention facilities.

According to the report, unlawful killings have been going on in the northern states which is the hot bed of the terrorist attacks since 2010. It notes that people claiming to be Boko Haram have killed over 1000 people in attacks and assassinations.

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“While most of these attacks targeted members of the security forces, killing hundreds of police, soldiers and SSS, others have targeted local and state government officials, clerics and Islamic scholars, lawyers, journalists and traders as well as unarmed civil defence and immigration officials. Some killings have been carried out in the street, by shooting or detonating explosives, with perpetrators escaping on motorbikes or Keke Napep…”

It also states that on 28 January 2011, that eight people were shot dead including Engr. Fannami Gubio, the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, candidate for Bornu state governor, and Alhaji Godi Modu Sherif, the brother of then governor of Borno state. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks.

On 20 January, 2012, the report states that at least 186 people were killed in Kano when members of the dreaded sect attacked security forces at eight different locations, including the zonal and state police headquarters and that of the state security service.

“The bombings were followed by an exchange of gunfire between Boko Haram and security forces lasting several hours. Among those killed were police officers, their relatives and residents living nearby. A journalist with the news station Channels, Enenche Akogwu, was also shot dead”.

Across central and northern Nigeria, the global body states that over 20 churches have been attacked since 2010 for which the sect had claimed responsibility and had often stated explicitly their intention to target christians.

The bombing of the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, a suburb of Abuja on 25 5ecember, 2011 also got mentioned in the release as the report indicates that 43 people were killed in the blast which Boko Haram claimed was carried out as a collective retribution for alleged government abuses against Muslims.

However, the report accused authorities for not conducting effective and impertial investigations in establishing the truth about human rights violations, including extra judicial executions, and gathering evidence to hold perpetrators to account.

“International standards require that any death in custody must be investigated thoroughly and impartially. Dependents or relatives of persons killed, or their legal representatives, are also entitled to an independent process, including judicial process, and publication of a report of investigation. Indeed, whenever an individual dies in state custody, the responsibility of the stateis to be presumed, the state must affirmatively provide evidence that it lacks responsibility to avoid that inference”

It also states that many of those interviewed who claimed that their rights were violated by the security forces in Maiduguri said they found it very difficult to make complaints while the circumstances surrounding the death of 21 years old trader, simply identified as M.C, in Bula Birin, opposite Monday market in Maiduguri on 14 May, 2012, had remained shrouded in mystery.

The report states that the remains of the trader was found at the morgue after over 160 people were picked up by security forces and taken to Special Anti Robbery Police station in the state. The report indicate that the police, according to the late traders relative, were even challenging each other “how did he die?”.