Nigeria: Amnesty implicates military in war crimes

Amnesty International has released gruesome video footage, along with images and testimonies the group provide fresh evidence of war crimes, including extrajudicial executions, being carried out in northeastern Nigeria as the fight by the military against Boko Haram and other armed groups intensifies. The footage, obtained from numerous sources during a recent trip to Borno state, includes horrific images of detainees having their throats slit one-by-one and dumped in mass graves by men who appear to be members of the Nigerian military and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a state-sponsored militia. Several of the armed captors are wearing uniforms emblazoned with the words “Borno State Operation Flush." Said Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty: "What does it say when members of the military carry out such unspeakable acts and capture the images on film? These are not the images we expect from a government which sees itself as having a leadership role in Africa."

More than 4,000 people have been killed this year alone in the conflict by the Nigerian military and Boko Haram, including more than 600 extrajudicially executed following the Giwa Barracks attack on March 14 in Maiduguri—the same town where the new footage emerges from. In recent months, the conflict has intensified in northeastern Nigeria, spreading to smaller towns and villages which are now increasingly on the front line. In July 2014 Damboa in Borno state became the first town to fall under the control of Boko Haram since President Goodluck Jonathan declared the state of emergency in May 2013. Amnesty's acquired footage also shows the aftermath of a Boko Haram raid on a village in which insurgents killed nearly 100 people and destroyed or badly damaged scores of homes and other buildings.

The heavy-handed militarization also caused shock waves in Kaduna state in July. Twelve people from a Shi'ite sect led by Sheikh El Zakzaky appear to have been killed in custody by the Nigerian military. They were apparently arrested after taking part in an peaceful protest, in which 21 other protesters, including two children, were also killed after the military opened fire on them. Amnesty International is calling for an immediate, independent investigation into systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all sides that is emerging in northeastern Nigeria. (AI, Aug. 5)