Nigeria: Human Rights Watch Condemns Use of Firearms On Shiites

Women in black niqabs holding up posters calling for the release of Shiite cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky. The founder and leader of the Shiite Islamist Movement of Nigeria (IMN), has been in jail since December 2015.
25 July 2019

The Human Rights Watch has condemned the use of live firearms on members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who were protesting the continued detention of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky by the federal government.

In a statement made available to THISDAY wednesday, the Nigeria Researcher of the organisation, Aniete Ewang said the protest, which took the life of 11 persons, including a journalist, was poorly and unlawfully managed by the Nigerian police.

He said: "We are calling on security forces to abide by the United Nations basic principleson the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials. The basic principles state that security forces shall apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms, and that whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, security forces should exercise restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense and the legitimate objective to be achieved.

"They should also minimise injury and preserve human life. The intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life. This principle further provides that in cases of death or serious injury, a detailed report shall be sent promptly to the competent authorities," he said.

He said Nigerian authorities have used excessive force against IMN, otherwise known as Shi'ites, since 2015, adding that on December 12, 2015, the Nigerian army used excessive force against the group's street procession in Zaria, Kaduna State, in the Northwest, allegedly to clear the way for the army chief's convoy.

"In an ensuing three-day crackdown, the army killed 347 members of the group and arrested hundreds more, including the group's leader, El Zakzaky, and his wife, Ibraheemat.

"In September 2016, a Kaduna State Judicial Commission of Inquiry recommended prosecuting soldiers involved in the Zaria killings. State prosecutors ignored that recommendation. However, they brought charges against 177 members of the Shia movement for the killing of Cpl. Dan Kaduna Yakubu, the only military casualty in the incident."

He called on judicial officials and the National Human Rights Commission to carry out credible, impartial investigations into the violence during the July 22 protest.

He said those responsible for the unlawful use of force should be brought to justice in fair trials, emphasising that authorities should immediately release protesters who were arbitrarily arrested and who have not been charged with credible offences.

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