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