UK visit: Nigeria’s President Buhari must stop side-stepping justice and start investigating war crimes
“This is no time for a diplomatic tap-dance around the issues of mass unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest and deaths in detention.” – Kate Allen
No UK military assistance to Nigerian troops accused of committing human rights violations, urge Amnesty
David Cameron must urge Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to stop side-stepping justice and start independent investigations into war crimes and possible crimes against humanity by the Nigerian military, said Amnesty International today.
The call comes a day ahead of President Buhari’s visit to the UK to attend the Supporting Syria Conference in London on Thursday (4 Feb).
Amnesty also reiterated its call upon the UK Government to ensure any military assistance provided to Nigeria is in keeping with human rights standards, and not provided to units accused of crimes under international law and other serious violations of human rights.
Amnesty has documented crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed by the Nigerian military in its fight against the armed group, Boko Haram.
Since 2011 Nigeria’s soldiers have extra judicially executed more than 1,200 men and boys; more than 7,000 men and boys have died in military detention as a result of starvation, torture, extreme overcrowding and denial of medical assistance, and more than 20,000 people have been arrested in the course of security operations in north-east Nigeria since 2009.
Amnesty has also named nine top-ranking officials who should be investigated for potential individual or command responsibility for the war crimes. In a concerning move, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed, one of senior commanders named in Amnesty’s 2015 report, was last month reinstated to office.
Major General Mohammed was in command of operations when soldiers killed more than 640 unarmed recaptured detainees following a Boko Haram attack on the detention centre in Giwa barracks on 14 March 2014. Video footage and witness testimony reveals soldiers shot detainees in the streets or cut their throats and threw their bodies in to mass graves.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“Charges of the worst possible crimes have been levelled at the Nigerian military. Just days after taking office President Buhari himself stated that he would leave ‘no stone unturned to promote the rule of law’ and that he would look into our findings.
“It is bitterly disappointing then, only nine months after from taking office, Buhari has done nothing to independently investigate these egregious crimes. David Cameron must raise these issues with President Buhari when they meet this week. This is no time for a diplomatic tap-dance around matters of mass unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest and deaths in detention. Cameron must use this opportunity to help bring justice to the families of the victims of these horrendous abuses.”
UK military assistance to Nigeria
The UK Government currently provides military assistance to Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram. More than 150 British troops have been deployed to carry out training.
Speaking of the UK Government’s own responsibility, Kate Allen added:
“The UK must ensure that any assistance it provides to Nigeria is compliant with human rights law. It should not provide military assistance to Nigerian troops accused of committing human rights violations. All proposed training or other security assistance must be very carefully scrutinised, and all Nigerian military personnel recommended for training should be vetted to ensure the UK is not complicit in any serious human rights violations.
“The UK, under its obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty, must also ensure that a rigorous risk assessment is carried out before weapons, ammunition, or other military technology are sent to Nigeria, and no transfers should take place where there is a clear and substantial risk that they could be used for commit or facilitate atrocities.”
Deadly attacks by Boko Haram continue
The Nigerian army is fighting the armed group Boko Haram, which has itself committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Amnesty International believes that the group murdered at least 8,200 civilians in 2014 and 2015, although the true number is likely to be much higher. Boko Haram abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since 2009, as well as hundreds of men and boys, and mistreated civilians in areas under their control, including through torture, rape, force marriage and forced recruitment.
While the group has been forced out of major towns in north-east Nigeria, Boko Haram continues to claim the lives of civilians in the region. Last Saturday Boko Haram gunmen killed at least 93 people in Dalori village, just outside Maiduguri, Borno state.
The Nigerian government must take all necessary legal steps to ensure the protection of civilians and restore security in the north east. Those responsible for these crimes must be brought to justice. The government should provide urgently-needed medical and psycho-social services to all those who have lived under Boko Haram control, including the full range of sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Nigeria is required under international law to independently investigate credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2014 internal military investigations into some allegations failed to find evidence of wrongdoing. President Buhari promised investigations into Amnesty International’s evidence on 3 June 2015 and pledged that his Attorney-General would advise him on the issue.
Despite joint initiatives between the military and the National Human Rights Commission and Nigerian Bar Association to review the rules of engagement and set up a human rights monitoring mechanism, Amnesty continues to document human rights violations by the military, including extrajudicial executions, torture, unlawful detention, inadequate detention conditions and arbitrary arrests.
Amnesty International’s June 2015 report “Stars on their shoulders, blood on their hands: War crimes committed by the Nigerian military” can be found here and video footage summarising the report can be found here