Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has condemned the killing of 492 Shiites by officers of the Nigeria Army and Nigeria Police Force (NPF) from 2014 to 2018, and called for investigation into the killings.
In a letter addressed to the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Falana handed down a seven-day ultimatum to the authorities to investigate the killings or face the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“In order to restrain the heads of the Nigeria Army, Nigeria Police Force and State Security Service (who are Sunnis) from further deploying the machinery of the Federal Government to prosecute an intra-religious war we urge you to arrest the extermination of the Shiites without any further delay. Since the nation cannot afford to turn the Islamic Movement of Nigeria into another terrorist organization like the satanic Boko Haram sect, we request the National Human Rights Commission to conduct a full scale inquiry into the gross violations of the fundamental rights of the Shiites highlighted in this letter,” Falana said in the letter.
“Take notice that if you fail to grant our request within seven days of the receipt of this letter we shall not hesitate to report the genocidal acts and crimes against humanity being committed by well known officials of the security agencies to the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in contravention of article 7 of the Rome Statute. The request will be anchored on the unwillingness or inability of the Federal Government to prosecute the criminal elements who are involved in the reckless massacre of the Shiites,” the activist added.
The senior lawyer further noted that in spite of the duty imposed on the federal government; to respect the fundamental rights of every person living in the country, the Army and Police have embarked on the systematic infringements of the fundamental rights of the Shiites to life, personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association and assembly.
He remarked that in particular, not less than 492 Shiites were recklessly massacred in Zaria, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano and Abuja by armed military and police personnel from 2014-2018.
He added that a number of other Shiites who were arrested for demonstrating against disobedience of court orders by the government were alleged to have been tortured to death in detention camps.
Falana lamented that apart from such state-sponsored killings, the security forces have violently disrupted the meetings, religious processions, protest marches and rallies convened by the Shiites, adding that this has prevented the group from protesting the illegal incarceration of their leaders.
According to Falana: “General Buratai justified the brutal killing on the grounds that the Shiites had plotted to assassinate him. But the judicial commission of inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government to probe the attack found that the genocidal attacks unleashed on the Shiites were premeditated the federal government and the relevant State Governments have deliberately refused to prosecute the well-known violators of the rights of the Shiites.
“In two separate suits, the Kano and Sokoto judicial divisions of the federal high court have upheld the fundamental rights of the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria to life, freedom of religion and freedom of expression including the right to engage in peaceful processions.
“But in utter contempt of the federal high court the Federal Government has refused to release Sheik Elzazaky and his wife from illegal custody. Both the army and the police have refused to recognize the right of the Shiites to participate in peaceful rallies. As you are no doubt aware, the Federal Government has continued to justify such subversion of the Rule of Law under the pretext of protecting national security.”