Amnesty International Testifies at Presidential Panel

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Asks FG to investigate claims against military, counsel says report not reliable

Alex Enumah in Abuja
Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday testified at the Presidential Panel set up to review compliance of the military on rules of engagement in the battle.

The organisation in its evidence by two of its senior staff; Anna Neistat, Senior Director for Research and Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director, Africa insisted it has a prima facie case against the military and urged the federal government to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Their testimonies were however taken in a closed session following a statement by Baley at the beginning of his testimony that video scenes which constitute part of his evidence might be obscene.

Justice Biobele Georgewill, Chairman of the seven-man panel, however invited journalists and other members of the public for the cross examination of the two witnesses by the military.
Lead counsel for the military, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), asked AI why it was silent on the number of military casualties in the battle against Boko Haram.

He asked the witnesses if they knew how many soldiers have been killed by Boko Haram between 2012-2017.
Responding, the first witness, Dr. Anna Neistat said the mandate of AI is to document violence against civilians and not what happens to the warring parties.

Also when asked if she had visited the theatre of operation as a researcher to get first hand information for the report, the witness said, their are competent staff of the organisation on grounds in the north, adding that reports are not just used on their own but have to be corroborated with other information and sources including from the military.

On the reliability and credibility of the sources it adduced its findings to, despite that the witness admitted not knowing them personally, she disagreed with the military counsel when she was confronted with the possibility that the sources are interested parties.

Counsel, “Do you agree that these sources are interested parties? Witness, “ No, I disagree,” she said, adding that no one testimony is just taken and put into our report without corroborating them with others.

Also, the witness told the court that they could not categorise their sources because it believed in protection of sources and would not want to endanger their lives.

Also, when asked if its claim in its report, that the military committed war crimes in the North-east was an allegation or a conclusion, the witness insisted that there was a prima facie case of war crimes against the military and urged that it be investigated.

Earlier, when the case was called, one Emmanuel Oguche of the Save Humanity Advocacy Centre, objected to the presentation of Amnesty.
He, however, suggested that if the organisation must be heard, its recommendations should not be taken.
However, the panel over-ruled him.

The hearing which lasted till about 6.15p.m. was however adjourned to today for the completion of the cross-examination and hearing of other petitions.
Monday said the panel would listen to stakeholders from the south-south region over alleged human rights abuses by the Army, Air Force, and Navy.

He said the panel would take receipt of memorandum from state governments, traditional rulers, community leaders, Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, human right groups and other stakeholders.
“It is gratifying to inform that the panel has been receiving memoranda from across the country as we intend to hold public hearings in each of the six geopolitical zones.