Presidential Panel Indicts Military for Rape, Extra-judicial Killings

The Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement by the Nigerian Armed Forces has indicted the military for rape and extra-judicial killings in the course of fighting insurgents in the north-east.

By this submission, the presidential panel has invariably vindicated Amnesty International (AI) and other bodies that first accused the Nigerian military of unprofessional conducts.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo while acting as president in August 2017 inaugurated the eight-man panel to review compliance of the Armed Forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement.

Osinbajo directed the panel to investigate allegations of human rights abuses levelled against the military by Amnesty International and other organisations. In one of its reports, Amnesty International alleged that the military committed several human right abuses while battling Boko Haram insurgents.

Amnesty International’s 2016 reports on Nigeria alleged that 240 people, including infants, died in military detention camps in the North East while 177 pro-Biafran agitators were allegedly extra-judicially killed in the same year.

The panel, in page 67 of the report, which was submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari last year found as follows: “On the presentation and the contents of the reports by the Amnesty International, we find that some of the allegations against the Nigerian military, particularly relating to allegations of extra judicial killings, rape, sexual exploitations and prolonged detention were corroborated by evidence of other petitioners and were this made out against the Nigerian military.

“However, most of the other wild allegations of blood on the hands of the Nigerian military commanders and mass graves of victims of military killings were not substantiated.”

The report noted that some of the allegations raised by Amnesty International tallied with evidence given “by other petitioners and confirmed the existence of some abuses of both international humanitarian law and human rights obligations by the Nigerian military as already found in those specific cases by this panel.” The panel’s report also confirmed the allegations which members of the public believed to be true but denied by the military, but the president has yet to act on the report.

The panel also made the following recommendations:
i. International organisations including Amnesty International should at all times be made to operate within the domestic laws of Nigeria.
I. It (Amnesty International) should be made to liaise more closely with the National Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Desk of the Nigerian military.
iii. The military authorities should readily investigate allegations made against it by international human rights organisations including Amnesty International in a transparent manner.

iv. Reports and findings of such independent investigators should be made public for timely redress and apportioning of responsibility and accountability for breach of human rights.” Osinbajo, while inaugurating the panel, said all the allegations being leveled against the armed forces and other security agencies must not go unaddressed so as to safeguard the good image of Nigeria.

He, therefore, assured all the security agencies that the work of the investigative panel should not be seen as a witch-hunt or an act aimed at denigrating the laudable work of the military. He said: “There have been a series of allegations levelled against security forces by some local and international commentators and it is our belief that if left unaddressed, these allegations are capable of undermining the good work and efforts of the men and women of the armed forces, who have largely conducted themselves in a disciplined and professional manner.

“Failure to examine some of these allegations will also leave those who may have been victims of such abuses without any recourse to justice. And if history has taught us anything, it is that the failure of our justice system to adequately respond to crisis is usually a recipe for greater conflict.’

The terms of reference of the panel included: “The review of extant rules of engagement applicable to Armed Forces of Nigeria and the extent of compliance thereto. “To investigate alleged acts of violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws under the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended; the Geneva Convention Act; the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights, Ratification and Enforcement Act and other relevant laws by the Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgencies.

“To investigate matters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflicts and insurgencies;
“To recommend the means of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in conflict situations
“To investigate matters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflicts and insurgencies;
“To recommend the means of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in conflict situations.”