WE are baffled that Amnesty International, AI, a highly reputable international human rights watchdog, has continued to pass up golden opportunities to present proofs of its serial accusations of human rights abuses against the Nigerian military.
The organisation had, on the two occasions that the nine-man Presidential Investigative Panel on the military’s compliance with human rights obligations and rules of engagement headed by Justice Biobele Georgewill had sat in Maiduguri and Port Harcourt, failed to send representations with evidence to substantiate its claims.
Human Rights Watch, AI and numerous media reports had accused the military of human rights abuses that led to the death of many innocent citizens in its operations against Boko Haram in the North East, the Muslim Shiites in Kaduna State and pro-Biafra agitators in the South East and South-South. When it became clear that the military’s internal investigations were no longer satisfactory to the general public, Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo on Friday August 4, 2017 set up the Justice Georgewill judicial panel to unravel the issue.
We expected AI and all other accusers with credible evidence to jump at the opportunity to substantiate their claims. It will be recalled that the United States government under President Barack Obama, bluntly refused to sell crucial military weapons to the Nigerian government under President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, citing alleged human rights abuses by the military in the pursuit of the anti-Boko Haram campaign.
Under the Leahy Doctrine, the United States government is forbidden to sell arms to countries deemed to have violated the human rights of their citizens.
This refusal and subsequent frustration of efforts to procure arms in the international market thus prompted a resort to the “black market”. This helped Boko Haram’s murderous campaign to balloon, and they started acquiring territories until they were scorched by the six-week surge in early 2015.
Amnesty’s allegation that the army killed and buried over 300 Muslim Shiites and 1,967 Biafra activists also created a big hoopla which the army hotly contested.
This judicial inquiry is a platform to expose these alleged excesses with a view to ensuring that justice is done, while the military is made to keep more strictly to professional ethics while dealing with civilians in situations of unrest. Refusal to testify after accusing the military is unfair and unhelpful.
We call on AI and other groups with credible evidence to come forward and testify in the interest of humanity and help advance the cause of human rights in our democracy. With two more sittings to take place in Kaduna and Enugu, AI could lose credibility in any future report of human rights abuses against our military if it fails to honour invitations to testify.
That would be sad indeed.