The Amnesty International (AI) has said that despite what it describes as threats from Nigerian Military, that it would not be deterred from defending human rights of individuals.
The human right group in a statement by its Director in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said “the Nigerian military is increasingly resorting to threats, intimidation and smears to discredit Amnesty International’s work documenting the human rights violations it has committed.”
It said on 24 May 2018, the organisation released a report, ‘They Betrayed Us,’ which it said documented the “prevalence of sexual violence against starving women and girls detained in satellite camps under the control of Nigerian soldiers and militia.”
It claimed the Nigerian Military responded by organizing smear campaigns and issuing threats to “take action against Amnesty International.”
“Rather than taking action to address the issues raised in this report, like investigating countless allegations of rape and other war crimes, the Nigerian military has fallen back on its usual hostile tactics of denials and threats,” he said.
Ojigho further said that “Amnesty International always shares the findings of its investigations with the Nigerian Military before publication. We ask detailed questions to ensure the Military can provide its side of the story, but in all cases the Military has either completely ignored these attempts to engage, or referred us to other arms of Government, in a clear attempt to evade our questions.”
AI further described the decision made on Wednesday by the Senate to probe allegations raised in “ They Betrayed Us” as a welcome development, and a sign of hope for victims seeking justice.
It also pointed that its work in Nigeria goes far beyond documenting violations by the Military. The organization has also released reports on the multiple horrific abuses carried out by the armed group Boko Haram, and human rights violations by the Nigeria Police Force.
“For example, in 20 March 2017, sponsored protesters carrying a coffin invaded Amnesty International’s office in Abuja chanting slogans against the organization like “Amnesty International supports Boko Haram,” and “You are demonic, leave Nigeria now.”
“The protesters, some of whom were internally displaced persons from camps outside Abuja, said they were paid N1400 every day by agents of the sponsors of the protest, who they met at Unity Fountain, Abuja.
“On 23 May 2018, a day before the launch of “They Betrayed Us”, pre-emptive media smear campaigns and organized protests were carried out with the apparent aim of intimidating and harassing Amnesty.
“A Nigerian Army spokesperson also repeated a previous claim that Amnesty International has an interest in prolonging the fight against Boko Haram. On the contrary, Amnesty International has consistently highlighted how the cost of conflicts across Nigeria further erodes access to education, health and social services in the country, and has warned that impunity for abuses by all sides perpetuates a deadly cycle of violence.
“These diversionary tactics are a shameless attempt to avoid investigating the accounts of human rights violations which have been presented by Amnesty. The statements by the Nigerian military clearly show that they have not read our reports,” Ojigho.