The families of eight people killed by Nigerian security forces hunting Boko Haram insurgents in Abuja have been awarded $200,000 compensation each, the West African bloc ECOWAS said Wednesday.
Eleven people injured in the raid on an uncompleted building in the Nigerian capital on September 20, 2013, were also awarded $150,000 each, it added.
A civil rights group brought the case against the Nigerian government, army and intelligence service to the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, which ruled on the matter on Tuesday.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) argued the shooting was a “flagrant abuse of their fundamental human rights to life and dignity” under international law.
Lawyers for Nigeria’s government argued that SERAP lacked the legal authority to bring the case and that the security forces acted appropriately to protect the life and property of citizens.
But a panel of three judges disagreed, ruling that while the facts of the shooting were not in dispute, the security forces had a duty to respect the right to life.
The court’s decisions are binding on all member states of the Economic Community of West African States, final and not subject to appeal.
Nigeria’s main intelligence agency, the Department of State Services, said after the shooting that security agents were searching for a weapons cache in a building under construction.
They claimed they came under fire from Boko Haram insurgents but the US Embassy indicated in a security message the violence involved squatters.
Several witnesses who were injured told AFP later they were unarmed.
Abuja had been attacked before 2013, notably in 2011 when the UN headquarters was hit in a suicide bombing killing at least 25, and newspaper offices and a shopping centre were attacked.
Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency has killed at least 20,000 people since 2009 and left more than 2.6 million others homeless, spreading from northeast Nigeria into neighbouring countries.
The military has regularly been accused of human rights abuses in its response, particularly against civilians and suspected members of the Islamic State group affiliate.