The Nigerian military has expressed deep concern over a video released by Amnesty International, which shows men dressed in army uniforms brutalizing and killing detained suspected terrorists and burying them in mass graves, with the assistance of the state sponsored vigilante youths, and has commenced investigation into the matter.
The video provides fresh evidence of war crimes, including extrajudicial executions and other serious human rights violations being carried out in the region as the fight by the military against Boko Haram and other armed groups intensifies.
In its reaction to the allegations, the defence headquarters said the cases of impersonations that have pervaded the counter terrorism operations in Nigeria and many other related issues, cast doubts on the claims made in the video.
“The Defence Headquarters considers these allegations too grievous to be associated with Nigerian troops, considering the doctrinal and operational contents of the training imparted to personnel on a continuous basis…Indeed, that level of barbarism and impunity has no place in the Nigerian military,” defence spokesman, Chris Olukolade said.
Olukolade, however, added that much as the scenes depicted in the video are alien to its operations and doctrines, they have to be investigated “to ensure that such practices have not crept surreptitiously into the system”.
Consequently, he said, the Defence Headquarters in addition to the already existing Joint Investigation Team, JIT, has constituted a team of senior officers and legal/forensic experts to study the video footage and the resultant allegations of infractions in order to ascertain the veracity of the claims with a view to identifying those behind such acts.
This, according to him, will further determine and stimulate necessary legal action against any personnel or anyone found culpable in accordance with the provisions of the law.
“It must thus be reiterated that the Nigerian military is a very well organized professional body of troops whose conducts in war and peace times are guided comprehensively by law…it will not encourage or condone any form of human rights violation as depicted in the said video,” Olukolade stated.
The video by Amnesty International includes horrific images of detainees having their throats slit one by one and dumped in mass graves by men who appear to be members of the Nigerian military and the Civilian JTF.
“This shocking new evidence is further proof of the appalling crimes being committed with abandon by all sides in the conflict.
Nigerians deserve better – what does it say when members of the military carry out such unspeakable acts and capture the images on film?” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general.
Amnesty International said more than 4,000 people have been killed this year alone in the conflict by the Nigerian military and Boko Haram, including more than 600 extra judicially executed following the Giwa Barracks attack on 14 March in Maiduguri.
The organisation called on the Nigerian authorities to ensure that the military stops committing human rights and humanitarian law violations.
It also insisted that all reports of extrajudicial executions and other war crimes and serious violations must be investigated promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially, with those responsible – up the entire chain of command – brought to justice.
“A state of emergency must not give way to a state of lawlessness. Sadly, the same communities are now being terrorized in turn by Boko Haram and the military alike,” said Shetty.