© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Amnesty International Indicts Badeh, Minimah, Others Of War Crimes
By Samuel Malik
Amnesty International has indicted and called for the investigation of very top Nigeria military officers for war crimes in the fight against insurgency in the North east.
The indictment comes from international human rights watchdog’s latest report, Stars on their Shoulders. Blood on their Hands: War Crimes Committed by the Nigerian Military, which exposes gory practices by troops against suspected Boko Haram members, such as torture, extrajudicial murder, starvation, and suffocation of 8, 000 people.
Those indicted are defence chief, Alex Bade, an air chief marshal, and his predecessor, Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, an admiral; army chief, Kenneth Minimah, a general, and his predecessor, Azubuike Ihejirika, also a general; John A.H. Ewansiha, Obida T Ethnan and Ahmadu Mohammed, major generals; and Austin O. Edokpayi and Rufus O. Bamigboye, brigadier generals.
The present and former service chiefs above, according to the report, should be subjected to “prompt, independent and effective investigations” for their oversight function because they ought to know what went on in the North east and if they knew. The other generals would be charged for their command of operations accused of the horrors.
According to AI, the report is a product of over three years of investigation and analysis of evidence, including military sources and interviews with more than 400 victims and eyewitnesses.
The head of AI, Salil Shetty, said the compelling evidence presented makes it necessary for the federal government to conduct further investigations.
“This sickening evidence exposes how thousands of young men and boys have been arbitrarily arrested and deliberately killed or left to die in detention in the most horrific conditions. It provides strong grounds for investigations into the possible criminal responsibility of members of the military, including those at the highest levels,” Shetty says.
“Whilst an urgent and impartial investigation of these war crimes is vital, this report is not just about the criminal responsibility of individuals. It is also about the responsibility of Nigeria’s leadership to act decisively to end the pervasive culture of impunity within the armed forces,” the report says.
The report says since 2009, when the insurgency started, no fewer than 20, 000 young men and boys people, were arrested. Some of the arrested were as young as nine years old. Many of these people were arrested in “screening” or “cordon-and-search” raids where security forces round up hundreds of men.
In custody, they were held incommunicado and in very inhumane conditions like overcrowded and unventilated cells with terrible sanitary conditions.
Several of the detainees died from these conditions and the constant tortured carried out by troops. “All I know was that once you get detained by the soldiers and taken to Giwa [military barracks], your life is finished,” AI quotes a former detainee.
“Welcome to your die house. Welcome to your place of death,” another former detainee said the soldiers told them when they arrived a detention facility. He also said out of the 122 men he was detained with, only 11 survived.
Former detainees told of their denial of water for days and they had to rely on urine, which itself was scarce. Many died from dehydration.
While senior military commanders in defence headquarters knew what went on in the field. As they frequently briefed, AI said they failed to take action.
“Despite being informed of the death rates and conditions of detention, Nigerian military officials consistently failed to take meaningful action. Those in charge of detention facilities, as well as their commanders at army and defense headquarters, must be investigated,” said Shetty.
The report further say the federal and state governments were notified of AI’s findings andn the need for action to be taken, but the government always denied.
“For years the Nigerian authorities have downplayed accusations of human rights abuses by the military. But they cannot dismiss their own internal military documents. They cannot ignore testimonies from witnesses and high-ranking military whistle blowers. And they cannot deny the existence of emaciated and mutilated bodies piled on mortuary slabs and dumped in mass graves,” explained.
In writing the report, AI said it analysed over 90 videos, conducted 412 interviews and six field trips. It also analysed several photographs and held meetings with government officials, including writing 57 letters to the government.
It is as a result of the above that the human rights watchdog shared its findings with the International Criminal Court, ICC, and gave a list of those it feels should be investigated further. It also calls on the government of President Buhari to take action against those implicated in the report.
“We call on newly-elected President Buhari to end the culture of impunity that has blighted Nigeria and for the African Union and international community to encourage and support these efforts. As a matter of urgency, the President must launch an immediate and impartial investigation into the crimes detailed in Amnesty International’s report and hold all those responsible to account, no matter their rank or position. Only then can there be justice for the dead and their relatives.”