By Ibidapo Balogun
Ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to the UK to attend the Supporting Syria Conference in London on Thursday (4 Feb), Amnesty International has called on British Prime Minister David Cameron not to approve any military assistance to Nigerian troops accused of committing human rights violations.
Amnesty also reiterated its call on the UK Government to ensure any military assistance provided to Nigeria is in keeping with human rights standards, and not provided to units accused of crimes under international law and other serious violations of human rights.
Amnesty has documented crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed by the Nigerian military in its fight against the armed group, Boko Haram.
Since 2012, Nigeria’s soldiers have extra-judicially executed more than 1,200 men and boys; since 2011, more than 7,000 men and boys have died in military detention as a result of starvation, torture, extreme overcrowding and denial of medical assistance, and more than 20,000 people have been arrested in the course of security operations in north-east Nigeria since 2009.
Amnesty has also named nine top-ranking officials who should be investigated for potential individual or command responsibility for the war crimes.
In a concerning move, Major-General Ahmadu Mohammed, one of senior commanders named in Amnesty’s 2015 report, was last month reinstated to office.
Major-General Mohammed was in command of operations when soldiers killed more than 640 unarmed recaptured detainees following a Boko Haram attack on the detention centre in Giwa barracks on 14 March 2014.
But the Nigerian Army said Major-General Mohammed was arbitrarily retired then.
Video footage and witness testimony reveals soldiers shot or cut the throats of the detainees and then threw them into mass graves.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “Charges of the worst possible crimes have been levelled at the Nigerian military. Just days after taking office President Buhari himself stated that he would leave ‘no stone unturned to promote the rule of law’ and that he would look into our findings.
“It is bitterly disappointing then, that nearly one year on from taking office, Buhari has done nothing to independently investigate these egregious crimes. David Cameron must raise these issues with President Buhari when they meet this week. This is no time for a diplomatic tap-dance around matters of mass unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest and deaths in detention. Cameron must use this opportunity to help bring justice to the families of the victims of these horrendous abuses.”
The UK Government currently provides military assistance to Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram. More than 150 British troops have been deployed to carry out training. Speaking of the UK Government’s own responsibility, Kate Allen added:
“The UK must ensure that any assistance it provides to Nigeria is compliant with human rights law. No British troops should provide military assistance to Nigerian troops accused of committing human rights violations. All training of units accused of such violations should be reviewed and all Nigerian military personnel recommended for training should be vetted further.
“The UK must also ensure that a rigorous risk assessment is carried out before weapons, ammunition, or other military technology are sent to Nigeria.”