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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Boko Haram: Army rejects grounds for war crimes probe


Nigeria’s military has rejected a call for senior army officers to be investigated for possible war crimes in the fight against Boko Haram Islamists.


Amnesty International named six serving or retired army officers whom it said should be probed to establish whether they were responsible for murder, torture and disappearances.

It alleged that more than 1,200 people had been extra-judicially killed and thousands more arbitrarily arrested during the bloody, eight-year conflict.

But the army’s chief of civilian-military affairs, Major General Nuhu Angbazo, told reporters in Abuja on Wednesday there was “no evidence” against any of the named commanders.

Angbazo said the findings were contained in the report of a board of inquiry, comprising seven military officers and two lawyers, which was set up to look into the claims.

Their report has not been published in full.

Amnesty’s allegations were contained in a 133-page report “Stars on their Shoulders. Blood on their Hands”, published in June 2015.

Similar allegations made in the past have typically been dismissed but President Muhammadu Buhari, who was just one month into office at the time, vowed to look into the claims.

Separate claims from Human Rights Watch of extra-judicial killings, rape and sexual coercion at camps for those displaced by the conflict were also dismissed in the report.

So, too, were Amnesty claims that Nigeria’s security forces had killed at least 150 pro-Biafra protesters and injured hundreds more since August 2015 in the southeast.

Angbazo said the board had raised concerns about several issues relating to the Boko Haram insurgency, including the processing of detainees and overcrowding at military jails.

“The current delay in the trials of Boko Haram detainees resulting in some cases in deaths in custody is unacceptable and a denial of the rights of fair trial,” he added.

Lack of access to legal representation or visits from legal practitioners was a “violation of human rights”, he said, adding the board had recommended improvements.

Amnesty’s Nigeria director, Osai Ojigho, said: “We stand by the findings of our research and our call for an investigation that is independent, impartial and thorough, criteria that this panel clearly does not meet.”

She called for a presidential commission of inquiry into the allegations and for the report to be made public.

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