Military pleads for time to reply Amnesty International over war crime allegation
The Nigerian military has pleaded for time to enable it study the report, containing allegations of war crimes and human rights abuses levelled against officers and men by the Amnesty International (AI)
The AI has, on June 3, released a report, indicting some past and serving military officers of war crimes in the course of the counter-insurgency campaign in Northeastern Nigeria.
But a statement yesterday by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, accused the AI of rehashing the same report since 2011 and presenting it to the public.
“Amnesty International report was released on 3 June 2015. Therefore, the Nigerian military as a responsible corporate organisation is bound to respond to these allegations in order to put the records in proper perspective.
“For the avoidance of doubts, the Amnesty International’s allegations of human rights abuse and extra judicial killing of civilians are a rehash of the same allegations made against the military since 2011.
“No new facts have been unearthed by the Amnesty International to warrant their repeated allegations.
“However, the figures adduced by the Amnesty International as victims of extra judicial killing by the military have kept on increasing from 4,600 to 8,000 and even as high as 13,000 civilians.
“The military has the constitutional and moral responsibility to protect Nigerian citizens and cannot suddenly engage in mass murder as portrayed by the Amnesty International’s allegations”, the statement said.
According to the Army Chief, the military had already begun investigation into the report and that it would require some time to address the issues raised therein.
The statement said: “Consequently, several investigations on these allegations are ongoing. Some investigations have turned in their preliminary reports which have been acted upon. Some of the investigations could not be concluded due to the inaccessibility of the terrain due to the activities of Boko Haram terrorists.
“Similarly,the Defence Headquarters set up two Joint Investigation Teams (JIT) to investigate, screen and categorise suspected insurgents in detention. Out of the 504 suspects screened, prima facie cases were established against 350 suspects and were recommended for trial at the Federal High Court. Their case files were forwarded to the office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice.
“The preliminary investigation reports submitted have resulted in the release of some detainees who are under age, women and children from some military holding facilities. Sequel to the report of the investigation panel, 42 detainees were handed over to the Borno State Government on Thursday,November 6, 2014 and another set of 124 persons were also handed over to the state government on November 8, 2014 respectively.
“You may recall that the released persons were assisted with a token financial assistance of N100,000 each by the military. The living condition of the detainees was improved upon with the decongestion of holding facilities.
“Additionally, the Code of Conduct for troops in the North East and other Internal Operations and Rules of Engagement clearly spelt out guidelines for troops. Therefore, the Nigerian military does not in any way condone indiscipline or breach of such regulations, let alone wanton killing or destruction. The Nigerian military collaborates with the International Committee of the Red Cross on training of personnel on laws of armed conflict and humanitarian law regularly”.
The statement added that the Nigerian Senate and the National Human Rights Commission had also conducted independent investigations into the allegations.
It continued: “It is worthy to note that the Human Rights Watch on some occasions had to recant its allegations of human rights abuses by the Nigerian military after thorough investigation.
“The military requested the Amnesty International to provide a member for the investigation panel to look into the allegations, but the invitation was not honoured by the Amnesty International.
“The essence of offering the Amnesty International the membership of the investigation panel was to guarantee fairness and justice, while proving to the world that the military has nothing to hide or cover up. The office of the Attorney General of the Federation was also carried along in all the investigations.
“The military is still conducting investigations on the Amnesty International’s allegations. In the course of forensic investigations, the withdrawal of troops from the frontline for investigation tends to dampen the morale of soldiers and distract ongoing operations against insurgents. This is one reason why the understanding of the Amnesty International would be worth the while.
” The Amnesty International wrote a five-point questionnaire to the Nigerian military in November 2014, alleging extra judicial killing of some groups of people by the military.
“The military responded to the five-point questionnaire immediately and in December, precisely 23 December, 2014, the Amnesty International sent another 37-point questionnaire to the Nigerian military which was answered.
“The e-mail and hard copy were delivered to the Amnesty International Headquarters in London on 23, December 2014. If the military had anything to hide, it would not have responded to the 37 questions and others, especially in the light of the constraints of timing”.
The Army Chief stated further that the military authorities had facilitated a visit to the detainees by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the various detention facilities at the shortest notice.
The military, he said, would not have allowed access to the facilities and other operational areas if there was anything to hide.