Amnesty international has alleged that Nigerian Army and civilian Joint Task Force tackling the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east were neck deep in extrajudicial executions and other heinous crimes against humanity in the region.
Gruesome video footage, images and damning testimonies gathered by the world’s rights body provided fresh evidence of alleged extrajudicial executions and other serious human rights violations being carried out as the fight by the military against Boko Haram insurgents and other armed groups intensifies.
According to the group, the footage, obtained from numerous sources during a recent trip to Borno state, reveals graphic evidence of multiple war crimes being carried out in Nigeria.
It 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 Joint Task Force” state-sponsored militias. It also shows the aftermath of a Boko Haram raid on a village that resulted in almost 100 deaths and destruction on a massive scale.
Amongst the testimony gathered by the body were voices of witnesses which suggested that extrajudicial killings were rampart during the period under review.
“These are not the images we expect from a country which sees itself as having a leadership role in Africa. The ghastly images are made worse by the numerous testimonies we have gathered, which suggest that extrajudicial executions are, in fact, regularly carried out by the Nigerian military and CJTF.”
“More than 4,000 people have been killed by all sides in the conflict during armed attacks this year alone. Civilians, who are not directly participating in hostilities, make up the majority of this death toll, Amnesty said.
Residents also informed about a “screening” operation which took place on 23 July 2013. Where scores of Nigerian military and CJTF from Maiduguri arrived in the central market around 11am and told all the adult men to gather in one area and take off their clothes, it added.
The footage shows how during this “screening” operation, the military and CJTF fired celebratory shots in the air. Up to 35 detainees were then loaded onto a single military vehicle and taken away to the local military barracks in Bama, the rights group said.
In a swift reaction, Director of Defence Information, Maj-Gen Chris Olukolade said that Nigerian military takes the issue of Human Rights seriously and will never condone any proven case of abuse by its personnel saying that the claims will be investigated to ensure that such does not creep into the system.
His words, “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. 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.
Olukolade maintained that the 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.
He also said that Defence Headquarters in addition to existing Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has constituted a team of senior officers and legal cum forensic experts to study the video footage.