Thursday, 25 February 2016

Amnesty International 'Extremely Worried', Investigating Allegation of Extra-judicial Killing of Biafran Activists in Aba

Amnesty Internation­al (AI), the global hu­man rights body, has stated that supporters of the Indigenous Peoples of Bi­afra (IPOB) have a right to free­dom of expression and freedom of assembly.
The organization also noted that it was still investigating dis­turbing reports of the massacre of unarmed members of IPOB and their alleged burial in a mass grave in Aba, Abia State, by Nigerian se­curity operatives.

The organization also stated that extra-judicial killing remains a major issue in Nigeria, beyond the context of the security opera­tions in the North-East.

The organization said it was very concerned about what is hap­pening in the South East of Ni­geria - going by reports of har­assment and intimidation of unarmed people exercising their basic freedoms of expression and assembly.

According to Amnesty, Nige­rians must understand and fight for their rights - given the fact that Nigeria is a signatory to the Rome Treaty.

The global body expressed these positions at the launch of Amnesty International Annual Re­port 2015/2016, at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, yesterday.

Ambassador M.K. Ibrahim, the Country Director of AI, field­ed questions from journalists after the report presentation. His words: “We are extremely worried and con­cerned at what is happening in the South-East because of the treatment of the supports of IPOB with regards to their freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

“While Amnesty does not re­port or work on issues of self-deter­mination, which are political issues, we are terribly concerned with the steps being taken by the authorities to violate freedom of expression and freedom of assembly of the IPOB.

“Amnesty has a standard in con­ducting these investigations. We have seen pictures, we have heard stories. But before Amnesty Interna­tional will publish anything we have to verify. We have very rigid verifi­cation standard and that is what we are doing right now.

“We want whatever we print to stand by it. I can assure you that soon you will see our report on the plight of IPOB in the context of ex­pressing their freedom of expression and right to assembly.

“We are concerned with the cas­es, the stories we are seeing about people being killed while protest­ing. Let me emphasise again that our verification standard has no short-cut. At the moment we are investi­gating.”

Responding to its position on extra-judicial killings in Nigeria, Amnesty said that, “Ex-judicial kill­ing is a major issue here, beyond the context of the security operations in the North-East. And this is one of the issues that ignited Boko Haram - the extra-judicial killing of Mo­hammed Yusuf.”

On the Nigerian military and rights violations, it stated that, “The military is an honourable institution and should be a respectable organi­zation everywhere in the world. We thought that the Nigerian military should also be in that class. We have nothing against the military as an institution.

“But in the conduct of their operations in the North-East – and this fact-finding and research took us two years – we found out unfor­tunately that there was gross human rights violations by the military. We have gathered a lot of evidence as we have indicated in our report.

“We have 90 videos, inter­viewed over 490 witnesses, victims and doctors. We know from our re­search, especially using technology, that such violations actually took place. What we are asking is for the government which has an obliga­tion and a duty to protect the life of every Nigerian to look into these complaints.

“We have made recommenda­tions and there should be an inde­pendent, impartial panel of inves­tigators to look into these human rights violations. The purpose of do­ing this is to ensure that we stop the preponderance of such violations. The government has promised us that these violations will be inves­tigated.”
On the laid-back attitude of Ni­gerians with regards to regular vio­lations of their rights, Amnesty stat­ed that citizens must wake up and fight for their rights.

 In Ibrahim’s words: “Nigerians should wake up and fight for their rights. Human rights education is the key here. Nigeria is signatory to the Rome Treaty. If Nigeria is violat­ing its constitution, ultimately it’s for Nigerians to fight for our rights. We have a constitution.

“If the constitution says that you should not be detained for more than 24 hours and we see people detained for months, years; it is our duty as Nigerians to say that we are not respecting our constitution.
“It is only when we do that that our rights will be respected; will be protected by our government and security agencies.”

In its report proper, present­ed in a summary format, Amnes­ty noted that: “Protests for an inde­pendent state of Biafra took place in the South and South East. On 14 October, Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB and director of Radio Bi­afra, was arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy, managing and belongin to an unlawful society and intimidation.

“On 17 December, the Federal High Court in the capital Abuja or­dered his unconditional release from the custody of the Department of State Services.
“However, he was not released and charged with treason on 18 De­cember. He remained in detention at the end of the year.”

Amnesty’s summary report swept through the March 28, 2015 general elections, conflict between the military and Boko Haram and war crimes on both divides; retire­ment of all service chiefs appointed by former President Goodluck Jon­athan by President Muhammadu Buhari, Dasukigate, communal vio­lence, death penalty, housing/wom­en rights, corporate accountability and deficits in criminal justice ad­ministration in Nigeria.

 Culled from: The Authority Newspaper