Amnesty International Wants Nigerian Security Forces Held Accountable for Killing Shiites

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Eromosele Abiodun

Amnesty International (AI) has called for the arrest and prosecution of Nigerian security agents responsible for the killing of at least 45 peaceful Shi’a protesters.

In a statement yesterday, AI said it has strong evidence that soldiers used automatic firearms on Shi’a Muslims who were holding religious procession and protest.

It stated that at least 39 protesters were killed, 122 injured in a single day, adding that victims included men, women and children.

“An investigation by Amnesty International showed that the horrific use of excessive force by soldiers and police led to the killing of at least 45 supporters of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) over two days, as the Shi’a Muslim group held a peaceful religious procession around Abuja.

“AI researchers visited five different locations in Abuja and Nasarawa State where wounded IMN supporters were receiving treatment, including two locations where bodies were deposited. Researchers spoke with victims, eyewitnesses and medical practitioners, and analyzed videos and photographs of those injured and killed during the protests, which took place last Saturday and Monday.

“We have seen a shocking and unconscionable use of deadly force by soldiers and police against IMN members. Video footage and eyewitness testimonies consistently show that the Nigerian military dispersed peaceful gatherings by firing live ammunition without warning, in clear violation of Nigerian and international law,” Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho said.

Ojigho further stated that “those injured were shot in different parts of the body-head, neck, back, chest, shoulder, legs, arms-and some of them had multiple gunshot wounds. This pattern clearly shows soldiers and police approached IMN processions not to restore public order, but to kill.”

Amnesty International added that it has evidence that the military used automatic firearms during last Monday’s protest, in which at least 122 protesters sustained gunshot wounds and at least 39 were killed, stressing that at least six people were killed during last Saturday’s protest.

According to AI, “The organisation’s research team counted 24 bodies (23 male and one female) and trusted sources provided details of 21 others. Two of the bodies seen had their legs severed, which AI military and weapons expert analysed as consistent with injuries caused by a heavy automatic machine gun such as a PKM or DShK. It seems the Nigerian military were deliberately using tactics designed to kill when dealing with IMN gatherings. Many of these shootings clearly
amount to extrajudicial executions.

“This violent crackdown on IMN protesters is unjustified and unacceptable. They were perfectly within their rights to hold a religious procession and protest and there was no evidence they posed an imminent threat to life.”

The organisation added that many injured Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) supporters have sought medical treatment in unofficial buildings due to fear of arrest if they go to the hospital.

It stated that the Nigerian authorities have an obligation under international law to ensure there is a full and independent investigation of deaths at the hands of security forces and that those responsible, including in the command structure of the security forces, are held accountable under criminal law.