Amnesty International versus the Nigerian military
IT is certainly impossible to live down the vexatious report by Amnesty International (AI) against the Nigerian military and its prosecution of the war against terrorists, a report that is not only inaccurate, but at best, one-sided. And could in fact, embolden the Boko Haram terrorists in the North East. This is not just unacceptable, it opens up AI up to the charge of being sympathetic to the sect.
With the hyper-dramatic title: “Stars on their shoulders. Blood on the hands – War crimes committed by the Nigerian military”, the report alleged that since March 2011, more than 7,000 young men and boys died in military detention and more than 1,200 people unlawfully killed since February 2012. AI then said, with years of research and analyses of evidence, including leaked military reports and correspondence, interviews with more than 400 victims, eyewitnesses and senior members of the Nigerian security forces, the authenticity of the report is unassailable.
AI’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, in the report, outlined the roles and possible criminal responsibilities of those along the chain of command – up to the Chief of Defence Staff and the rest of the service chiefs submitting that “this sickening evidence exposes how thousands of young men and boys were arbitrarily arrested and deliberately killed or left to die in detention in the most horrific conditions”.
According to Shetty, the war crimes include alleged mass deaths in custody, starvation, dehydration and disease, overcrowding and suffocation, fumigation, torture and extra-judicial executions. AI alleged that high-level military commanders knew about the crimes but consistently failed to take meaningful action. It then concluded that those in charge of detention facilities, as well as their commanders at Army and Defence Headquarters must be investigated.
While making these spurious allegations, AI turned a blind eye on the atrocities of Boko Haram, which is killing thousands of innocent men, women and children, as well as abducting people. Have they ever heard about the Chibok girls at AI? Did AI investigate where they are? This is not AI’s first attack on the Nigerian military in recent times. In September 2014, it released an indicting but unfounded report against the military and the police, alleging brutal torture and extrajudicial killings of Nigerians, including children held in their custody.
In February 2015, AI released another report in which it claimed to have evidence that the Islamic sect and the Nigerian military had committed crimes under international law in the context of the conflict in Nigeria’s Northeast.
Again, in March 2015, AI wrote to the 28th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, alleging that the Nigerian security forces had committed serious human rights violations and war crimes. The body, by all these reports, has demonstrated in no small measure what seems to be a determined effort to indict Nigeria’s armed forces at all cost and tarnish the country’s image in the international community.
Condemnable as its consistent bias against Nigeria is, AI has gone further to introduce war crimes or crimes against humanity, to attract global opprobrium against Nigeria, with a view to dragging the nation’s military officials to the International Criminal Court at The Hague for prosecution. This blatant witch-hunt of Nigeria is reprehensible, especially as Nigerians are being massacred daily by Boko Haram.
Among the countries contending with Islamist insurgency, Nigeria is fighting almost alone, a situation which has made the insurgency to fester. The Boko Haram war is still raging and the group has not stopped killing or maiming innocent citizens across the war zone. Almost on a daily basis, suicide bombers wreak havoc in markets, churches and mosques. Millions have fled their homes for safety, with almost million citizens as internally displaced persons both within and outside Nigeria.
The abduction of over 250 innocent school girls from Chibok since April 2014 and the killing of the innocent, mostly women and children in Boko Haram’s rampage don’t seem to merit AI’s attention. The Nigerian military has been struggling to keep the terrorists at bay. The nation is only on the defensive. The A1 should answer questions posed by the military among which are: How it obtained the figures being paraded. Did the organisation interview government functionaries or the accused senior military officers? How did AI get into the war front to obtain the information? How authentic is the information? Who gave the evidence and under what circumstance? Why was the military high command not involved in the investigation? That AI zeroed in on the Nigerian military but not one military personnel was interviewed to balance its report, grossly impairs the document.
President Muhammadu Buhari has, since assuming office, reached out to neigbouring countries and the international community on how best to handle Boko Haram. That is not the kind of country whose military can be accused of war crimes.
What is more, AI’s previous reports had been instrumental to the refusal by the United States of America to sell much-needed weapons to Nigeria to confront Boko Haram as America followed Amnesty International’s script and alleged human rights violations by the security forces.
Could it be that now that the new government is out to enlist the support of the U.S. and its allies, AI has once again sneaked in another devastating report to scuttle Nigeria’s chances?
Reports such as this tend to present Amnesty International as an organisation different from what it used to be. In the past AI reports had unimpeachable integrity and were believed by all. Regrettably, not anymore.
In its core guiding principles, it is clearly stated that “AI neither supports nor condemns a government policy of using military force in fighting against armed opposition movements. When an opposition group tortures or kills its captives, takes hostages, or commits deliberate and arbitrary killings, AI condemns these abuses”.
Viewed from that point, why condemn Nigeria for using military force to confront a vicious armed rebellion and terrorism?
Certainly, the organisation, at its founding, did not foresee a situation where deadly militants would take up arms in an attempt to overthrow the governments of sovereign states and foist a regime of brutality and inhumanity, hitherto unknown to recent civilisation.
Amnesty International should simply return to its raison d’etre and pursue its goals with objectivity in order to regain its credibility. Its current report on the Nigerian military is an insult to Nigeria and, given Boko Haram’s well-documented atrocities, an assault on humanity’s decency.