By Akeem Oyetunji Nigerian military has assured the international community that it will not condone or encourage any form of human rights violation by troops, pledging to investigate thoroughly, the recent allegation showing the purported video footage of troops carrying out extra-judicial killing of suspected Boko Haram members.
Consequently, the Defence Headquarters in addition to the already existing Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has constituted a team of senior officers and legal cum 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 will further determine and stimulate necessary legal action against any personnel or anyone found culpable in accordance with the provisions of the law,” the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, said while addressing newsmen on the issue on Tuesday.
Amnesty International had claimed it had seen “gruesome footage” including alleged members of the military slitting the throats of detainees.
Amnesty says footage obtained from multiple sources on a trip to Borno State, in the north, “includes horrific images of detainees having their throats slit one by one and dumped in mass graves”.
The perpetrators “appear to be members of the Nigerian military and the Civilian Joint Task Force, state-sponsored militias,” the organisation adds.
“The ghastly images are backed up by the numerous testimonies we have gathered which suggest that extrajudicial executions are, in fact, regularly carried out by the Nigerian military and CJTF,” says Amnesty International Secretary General, Salil Shetty.
The Defence spokesperson, said Nigerian military welcomed the interest being shown by international bodies and civil society groups on the observance of Human Rights in all aspects of ongoing counter terrorism campaign in Nigeria.
According to him, “It is expedient to particularly address the recent allegation of gross Human Rights abuses levelled against the military by the Amnesty International and those circulating video footage purportedly showing Nigerian military carrying out extra-judicial killing of suspected terrorists.
“For the records, we must unequivocally state that the Nigerian military takes the issue of Human Rights seriously and will never condone any proven case of abuse by its personnel. Military authorities are deeply concerned about the set of video footage being circulated and which unfortunately has also become reference data for Amnesty International in its report. “Much as the scenes depicted in these videos are alien to our operations and doctrines, it has to be investigated to ensure that such practices have not crept, surreptitiously into the system all to the detriment of expectations, in line with best practices to which the nation’s military has committed itself.
“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; emphasizing the importance of respect for Human Rights and dignity of human person as well as observance of humanitarian laws. Rather, the scenes in that video clip clearly depict a pattern consistent with the atrocious operations of the terrorists.
“Notwithstanding the cases of impersonations that have pervaded the counter terrorism operations in Nigeria and many other related issues which cast doubts on the claims made in the video, the Defence Headquarters views those grave allegations very seriously, more so as it borders on the integrity of the ongoing counter-terrorism operation, which must be sustained in the interest of our national survival”.
Olukolade assured Nigerians and indeed the international community that the “Nigerian Armed Forces recognizes the concern of Amnesty International as well as other similar bodies and therefore remains committed to the observance of the rules of engagement and human rights in its counter-terrorism operations”.