Global human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has raised concern over the inability of the Nigerian government to hold those involved in human rights violation accountable.
In a statement by the Media Manager of Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, the group decried what it described as pervasive violence against women.
According to the statement, these include purported rape of women and girls at various Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps, as well as sexual violence against female detainees by security operatives, sometimes in order to extract confessions.
The group said it was worried that the violations have continued, despite the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act by the National Assembly in 2015.
“While welcoming Nigeria’s acceptance of recommendations to intensify efforts to combat gender-based violence, the organisation urges the government to ensure that victims throughout the Federation can seek legal redress for gender-based violations, in line with the provisions of the VAPP,” it said.
“Since the beginning of the armed conflict in northeast Nigeria in 2009, Amnesty International has documented war crimes and other human rights abuses by Boko Haram and serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the security forces, including arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances, unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions,” it stated further.
It, however, frowned on the lack of accountability for crimes committed by Boko Haram, as well as by government forces in the fight against the insurgents, and called on the government to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice in fair trials.
The organisation noted that several states had called on the Federal Government to strengthen the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
In order to promote these rights, it disclosed that it recently launched a campaign on freedom of expression in Nigeria.
Amnesty International explained that this was a platform to call on the government to ensure that journalists and other media professionals could operate without fear of arrests or other reprisals.
Noting that the Human Rights Council has adopted a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcome on Nigeria, the group commended the nation’s cooperation with the review process and its positive response to some of the recommendations made by other states in the UPR Working Group.
The Nigerian Military has faulted the report of the Amnesty International in which they accused security forces of human rights violations.
In the report released on Thursday, the human rights organisation also alleged that security agencies were involved in extra-judicial killings and arbitrary arrests among other acts of rights violation.
Reacting to the allegations in a statement on Friday, the military described the report as “a gross disservice” to the nation’s high-security command.
According to the statement signed by the Acting Director Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim, allegations made against the military by the organisation since 2011 are largely unsubstantiated.
They noted that Amnesty International did not get clarification from them, claiming that the human rights group failed to acknowledge the fair trial of members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect.
Read the full statement below:
The recent report released by Amnesty International (AI) on 22 February 2018 alleging human rights violations by the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN), is a gross disservice to the nation’s high-security command.
The action of AI seems to be geared towards weakening the efforts of the AFN at ensuring peace and security in the country. It has been observed that AI has made it a routine duty to continue generating tension among the citizens by releasing unconfirmed reports, unsubstantiated claims and figures relating to military counter-insurgency operations and wanton killings by unknown groups or persons.
It is pertinent to re-iterate that the AFN as a responsible institution, financed by taxpayers, is bound to respond to these allegations in order to put the records in proper perspective. The AI allegations of human rights violations and extra-judicial killing of civilians by the AFN have followed a specific trend for some time now.
It could be noted that the organisation’s allegations made against the AFN since 2011 to date are largely unsubstantiated. The figures released by the organisation showed that 4,900 Boko Haram detainees were held in Giwa Barracks in an overcrowded facility where 340 detainees had already died of diseases and dehydration.
They further stated that 164 civilians were killed by the Nigerian Air Force when an IDP camp was hit at Rann by a Nigerian Air Force Fighter Jet and also that 12 IPOB members were killed in Umuahia by the AFN. Unfortunately, AI has failed to acknowledge the on-going fair trial and conviction of culpable members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect and the release of those not found guilty.
The number of persons released and re-integrated with the larger community is over 500. Both the convicted and freed suspects were earlier arrested from different locations across the country and taken to Kainji, a place that is relatively safer with enough space to accommodate them while providing the detainees with three square meals daily.
The suspects were also given proper medical attention by a military medical team attached to the detention facility. It is notable that the arrested Boko Haram members from the ongoing OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE were being tried by the Federal High Court at Wawa Cantonment Kainji since Friday 16 February 2018, convicting 205 detainees to various jail terms while 526 suspects have been freed for want of evidence.
Other sins of the Nigerian Government as captured by the AI in its report include infringing the rights of lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, and transgender as well as intersex persons. These AI championed rights have been strictly outlawed by Laws of the Federation of Nigeria subsuming the Nigerian Constitution as well as the cultural practices of our people.
This position of AI, clearly shows lack of respect for the constitution of Nigeria which these laws have become part. Let it be known that the Nigerian Government and its people are not ready and would never be, even in future, to please AI or anyone with the introduction of such things.
However, if AI feels strongly against the position of the Nigerian people on this issue and wants to assist the ‘victims’, they could issue these class of people with green cards to enable them relocate to other places across the world that accept such practices as it may not be necessary for them to remain Nigerians.
Generally, the authenticity and sources of figures generated by AI are worrisome. Regrettably, the military high commands were never contacted for clarification or guidance. The Defence Headquarters on its own made concerted efforts to meet with the country management of AI to discuss related issues without success, as they had consistently failed to show up.
This reaction of AI connotes that the body in Nigeria could have been sponsored to frustrate conflict resolution efforts towards peace and positive development of the nation. The deliberate falsehood peddled by AI could cast the nation and its security apparatus in a bad light. Meanwhile, AI does not seem to see anything wrong about the insurgents’ activities and known criminals until security agencies rise to the occasion of effectively containing their actions.
It could be noted that any time the AFN has reasonable assurances of getting military hardware and or expendables to further its operations or are recording remarkable successes, the AI as an organisation would come forward with falsehood to weep up anti-Nigerian sentiments within the international community. These are evident in the AI reports from 2011 to date.
Such reports had made inroads to the U.S. Congress a couple of years back leading to the invocation of Leahy Law against Nigeria at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency. The current report could have been ill-conceived to frustrate the ongoing US-Nigerian anti-terrorism cooperation. It could then be posited that the aim of AI in Nigeria is to cripple the country’s security apparatus through cheap blackmail in order to hold back necessary collaboration.
The AFN has both constitutional and moral responsibility to protect Nigerian Citizens and cannot suddenly engage in mass murder as portrayed by AI. The AI reports are at variance with and do not reconcile the information we are collecting from the field on daily basis making these sources suspect.
This is to inform the Nigerian public and the International Community that the AFN exhibit professionalism in its operations. Therefore, it is not proper an organisation in the class of AI to incite the Nigerian public and the international community against them. Currently, the AFN is bringing sanity to security challenges in the North East and other parts of the country.
The Nigerian Military does not in any way condone indiscipline or breach of set regulations, let alone wanton killing of citizens or destruction of property. It is worthy to note that, the AFN regularly collaborate with the International Committee of Red Cross on the training of personnel on laws of armed conflict and International humanitarian law.
Troops of the AFN are guided by Rules of engagement and Standing Operational Procedures which are explicit on how to conduct operations. It is also worthy to note that, since 2015 the military high command has introduced training of troops in Human Rights and Laws of Armed Conflict. These are compulsory courses in all AFN institutions which are yielding with positive results.
The AI is, therefore, requested to liaise with the Defence Headquarters for clarification on any matter regarding military operations before putting up inaccurate reports. Such reports are also capable of hurting the reputation of AI itself which would not be the best for the society in terms of accountability.
The Nigerian public and international community are hereby requested to disregard the current Amnesty report, keep faith and confidence in the AFN.
Amnesty International has called on the Federal Government to ensure that the judicial commission set up to review compliance of armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement is allowed to work without any interference.
The Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, who made the call also asked the government to provide the commission with the support needed.
“We call on the government to ensure that the commission is independent, impartial and free from any conflict of interest that may affect the integrity of its work. Ensuring that the commission has the resources to carry out its work and making its terms of reference public can bring transparency.”
The human rights group lauded the setting up of the commission and its mandate, saying the development would ensure justice was brought to victims of war crimes.
“The judicial commission is long overdue and is an opportunity to finally bring justice to victims of war crimes and other serious human rights violations committed across parts of Nigeria affected by conflict. We, therefore, call on the government to ensure that victims of human rights violations are allowed to present evidence to the commission without fear and with all the necessary protection”, Ojigho said in the statement issued on Saturday.
Amnesty International added that investigating the compliance of security agencies with rules of engagements in all conflicts and violation of human rights law was a step in the right direction.
They, however, noted that the investigation must be carried out with all sense of responsibility of making sure that no human rights violation go unaccounted for.
“The mandate of the commission to advise on preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in conflict situations is also a vital step for the country. The government’s priority should be justice, human rights and the dignity of human life in Nigeria.
“All persons reasonably suspected of committing crimes under international law and other serious violations of human rights on all sides of all conflicts in the country must be brought to justice in fair trials before civilian courts without recourse to the death penalty,” the group said.
The United States has accused Uganda of persistently violating the rights of its citizens and media in the aftermath of February’s presidential election.
The allegation of rights violations are the latest signs of worsening relations between western powers and Uganda, an ally in the fight against Islamists in the region.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby, said in a statement that Uganda’s repeated detention of opposition figures and harassment of their supporters, and the government’s interference in a challenge of the poll results are “unacceptable activities in a free and democratic society”.
“The United States and Uganda have a long standing and strong partnership that has contributed to the stability and prosperity of the region.
“We are concerned that the Ugandan government’s recent actions could endanger the economic and political progress that has enabled our relationship to grow,” the statement said.
Uganda’s electoral commission declared 71-year-old incumbent president, Yoweri Museveni, the winner of the Feb. 18 election with 60% of the vote.
Kizza Besigye, who came in second with 35% and who is currently under house arrest, has rejected the results.