Nigerian Army, Amnesty International fight at Presidential Panel of Inquiry

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AMNESTY International, AI, yesterday, testified before the Presidential Investigation Panel investigating the alleged violation of human rights by soldiers involved in the fight against insurgency in the country.

The United Kingdom is providing expert training to the Nigerian military in helping to develop the skills necessary to tackle the terror threat of Boko Haram in North East Nigeria.

The panel headed by Justice Biobele A. Georgewill is reviewing compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement. At the resumed sitting of the panel, the Nigerian Army, accused the international human rights monitoring organisation, AI, of raising unverifiable allegations against it.

The organisation, led by Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, had appeared before the panel to prove allegations of human rights abuses it earlier published against the Nigerian Army.

However, AI’s team came under fire from the Nigerian Army team led by Prof. Yemi George, SAN, who while cross-examining researchers from the organisation, insisted that the entire published reports were bereft of any iota of credibility. Army maintained that AI’s report which it said was anchored on selfish motive, was fabricated to impugn on its credibility and derail the war against terrorism in Nigeria, even as it argued that pictures and videos the organisation adduced before the panel were all fabricated.

The public hearing briefly descended into exchange of heated words after a member of the panel, Mr. Olawale Fapohunda asked representatives of AI if they were aware that having access to restricted documents they copiously referred to in their report, was an illegal act.

To this, AI’s Senior Director for Research, Dr. Anna Neistat, replied that, “If you insist AI should answer this question, it would be provided in writing after consulting with our organisation’s lawyer,” she added.

Fapohunda earlier asked if in the over 55 years existence of AI, if there was any occasion where it was discovered that facts contained in its publications were found to be incorrect. “Yes, there are cases of minor errors discovered and in all these cases, they have been immediately corrected and rightly communicated. But none of these errors have ever affected any of the allegations we raised. We have extreme rigorous process before publishing our reports,” Neistat answered.

However, when another member of the panel, Maj. Gen. Patrick Akem (Rtd) said he found it shocking that AI did not visit Maiduguri before publishing its report “Stars on their shoulder, blood on their hands”, AI’s lead counsel, Prof Ojukwu, SAN, accused the panel of exhibiting bias tendencies towards his client. He said the panel had by submissions of its members, shown that it had already reached a conclusion that evidences tendered by AI were not credible.

Chairman of the panel, Justice Georgewill, in his intervention, said his team would look into the matter dispassionately.   “Please, ignore these exchanges, just let the panel conclude its investigation,” he said.

The Chairman, however, queried AI on why it failed to provide specifics or present eye-witnesses. “Groups like us document our allegations to form a prima facie case for government to investigate. Our role is not to implicate any individual,” AI’s Director of Research and Advocacy for Africa, Netsanet Belay replied. Meanwhile, a group, the Save Humanity Advocacy Centre (SHAC), yesterday, gave AI 14 days to retract all its allegations or face an action before the International Criminal Court, ICC. – Vanguard
– Nov 3, 2017@ 08:30 GMT |

 

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