Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian military of taking measures to cover up its troops’ massacre of Shiite Muslims in Zaria, Kaduna State last December.
In a report released today, the international human rights and advocacy organization gave a detailed account of the Nigerian military’s massacre of Shiite Muslims in Zaria between December 12th and 14th, 2015. Amnesty International provided evidence not only that the military used excessive force against civilians, killing more than 350 people, but that Nigerian troops went to great lengths to cover up these crimes.
Following the bloody encounter between the Shiites and soldiers, SaharaReporters was the first website to provide extensive evidence that the troops mowed down scores of members of the religious sect.
SaharaReporters had revealed that the carnage happened after a confrontation between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and a military convoy that was escorting the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, to an event. Following the encounter, the Nigerian army alleged that the Shiite members had attempted to assassinate General Buratai. The sect vigorously denied the allegation.
In its damning report, Amnesty International seemed to lend credence to the account given by the Shiites. According to the human rights organization, “the Nigerian Army has provided no evidence to substantiate its claim that IMN protesters attempted to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff or shot at his convoy, or that the protesters’ action warranted the degree of force used against them.”
The report added, “the military reported one fatality and one casualty among its ranks during the initial clashes.”
Yesterday, the Kaduna State government asked a Kaduna High Court to sentence fifty Shiite members to death for causing the death of one soldier.
Amnesty International provided images to SaharaReporters depicting before and after photos of Shiite sites of worship destroyed under the order of the Nigerian military. The organization also provided images of suspected mass graves where the military reportedly hid the bodies of the victims of their carnage.
Amnesty International disclosed that it “has identified the location of one possible mass grave in the Mando area near the city of Kaduna, where [Amnesty International] found a large area churned up by differs, with dried-up large vehicle tracks still visible at the time of the visit.”
The pattern and behavior of the Nigerian military following the initial clash triggered widespread criticism. Lanre Olanrewaju, the chairperson of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), told SaharaReporters, “If the military believed their actions to be lawful, then why should they go to such lengths to hide the dead bodies from the public and the families of the deceased? Their cover up shows the premeditation in their action to murder unarmed civilians.”
Satellite images provided by Amnesty International show important Shiite religious sites or property belonging to the IMN leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, being demolished. According to the report, “after the incident, the military meticulously destroyed most of the evidence at the scenes of the clashes. Soldiers sealed the areas around Ibrahim al-Zakzaky’s compound and around the Hussainiya in the afternoon of 12 December 2015 and for several days afterward.”
Amnesty International investigators found “that Ibrahim al-Zakzaky’s compound had been razed to the ground and the rubble removed, bloodstains washed off, and bullets and spent cartridge removed from the streets…several other sites belonging to the IMN in Zaria, including the Hussainiya, a recently created cemetery, a shrine dedicated to Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky’s mother, a media/film production center, and a research center, were also completely or partially destroyed in the days following the incident.”
The Amnesty International report provided recommendations to various Nigerian institutions and authorities, including the Kaduna State government and the Federal Government. To the Kaduna State government, it is recommended that it “ensure that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Zaria events…[be] impartial and thorough.” It also urged the government to ensure that the “Commission has the necessary means to carry out its investigation unhindered and the necessary powers to summon and compel the relevant civil and military authorities to cooperate fully.”
Amnesty International recommended that the Federal Government “ensure [that] those suspected of being criminally responsible are held accountable through fair trials…and that families and dependents of the victims of extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings are entitled to obtain fair and adequate reparation from the state, including financial compensation.”
The Nigerian military has not offered a public response to Amnesty International’s report at the time of publication.