Abuja - The Coalition of Southeast Human Rights Organisations has slammed measures by the Nigerian Army to quell Biafra protests through force.
The group said its attention had been drawn to a statement made by the Army in Abuja, in which "it issued a stern warning to Nigerian citizens who were peacefully and non violently asserting their regional and international rights to self determination."
“Such rights are also constitutionally guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution in the form of rights to personal liberty and peaceful assembly as well as rights to freedom of association and movement and they are contained and enshrined in Sections 35, 40 and 41 of the Fundamental Human Rights Charter of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the coalition said on Friday.
The coalition comprises the Anambra State Branch of Civil Liberties Organisation, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Human Rights Club, Southeast Good Governance Forum, Forum for Equity, Justice and Defense of Human Rights, Society Advocacy Watch Project, Anambra Human Rights Forum and PADDI Foundation.
The coalition said the Army’s statement was totally incoherent with and unknown to the 1999 Constitution particularly its Fundamental Human Rights Charter.
“It is also a clear misinterpretation of the 1999 Constitution particularly its Section 217; which clearly states that ‘there shall be an armed forces for the Federation and not ‘the army for the Federation.’ The ‘armed forces’ include other recognized armed forces segments like navy and air force.
“That is to say that the view of the Nigerian Army cannot represent the collective view of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Nigerian Army is not the Nigerian Armed Forces.”
The human rights organisations said compared with the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB, a self determination pressure group, the “stern warning” or “riot act” so issued, was totally “misguided, vexatious, shallow, dubiously intended and constitutionally incoherent.”
“The stern warning or riot act was also grossly misdirected, as it ought to have been directed to the Boko Haram terror insurgents who have severally disclosed their intention to violently destroy the country’s existing socio-legal system and put in place radical Islamic theocracy.”
The group argued the IPOB pressure group and millions of its supporters had not used or advocated violence.
“We see the stern warning or riot act as a clear declaration by the Nigerian Army of an intention to commit crimes against humanity by indicating its readiness to deploy and use brute force to “suppress” ongoing peaceful and non violent processions involving the IPOB pressure group and its teeming supporters,” said the group.
Also read: Pro-Biafra protest moves to Rivers
“From the body language of the Nigerian Army, it may most likely stage-manage or create group violence, arson, vandalism and damages to property so as to find grounds to deploy and use brute force as well as justification of same.”
The rights groups hinted at approaching local and international legal institutions in the event of violations.
“We wish to warn and remind the leadership of the Nigerian Army not to forget that there still exists International Criminal Court and other formidable local and international mechanisms through which its commanding officers found engaged in ‘brutal suppression or quelling’ of ongoing peaceful and non violent protests shall be held accountable for crimes against humanity.”
The Service Chiefs have been warned they should be individually and vicariously be held responsible locally and internationally in the event deaths or injuries arise from their handling of future peaceful and non violent processions or protests in Nigeria or any part thereof.
“We challenge the Nigerian Service Chiefs to make good and practical their panicky and cowardly threats against the unarmed and non-violent protesting citizens and get ready to be condemned and rot in jail internationally for the rest of their lives.”
- CAJ News