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UN Special Envoy Ends Visit To Nigeria Over of force against Followers of Sheikh Zakzaky

A United Nations rapporteur has condemned Nigeria for QUOTE arbitrary deprivation of life and excessive use of lethal force against the brothers and sisters of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and its leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky.

Anges Callamard made the remarks in Nigerian capital, Abuja, where she presented her preliminary findings following a 12-day visit to the country.

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said she had NOT been presented with ANY evidence indicating the IMN was weaponized and posed a threat to the country. She added that the move to ban the group by Nigerian authorities was based on what IMN could become rather than its actions.

IMN leader, Zakzaky has been behind bars since 20-15. IMN members and supporters regularly take to the streets to call for the cleric’s release despite being heavily cracked down by security forces.

Read excerpts from the report:

Arbitrary Killings of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN)

42. The crackdown against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria started at the beginning of the 1990s and
continues nowadays. In Zaria, Kaduna, between 12 and 14 December 2015, at least 300 followers of the Shi’a group were killed by the Nigerian Army. Their leader, Mr El-Zakzaky, and his wife were arrested after this event and remains to this day in detention, despite a judicial ruling ordering their unconditional release from detention. On 22 January 2019, the Kaduna State High Court ordered the Kaduna State Government to avail the IMN leader and his wife access to medical care.
He allegedly sought medical care in India but was re-arrested upon his return.

43. In January 2016, the Kaduna State established a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the incident. The Commission found that the Nigerian Army committed serious human rights violations against IMN members, including disproportionate use of force and failure to keep record of recovered casualties. However, no further action was taken at the State or Federal level to investigate and prosecute those criminally responsible for the killings, one of the crucial recommendations of the Commission. I have requested further information about this to the Federal Ministry of Justice.

 UN special rapporteur Anges Callamard

44. The continued detention of Mr El-Zakzaky and the allegations of deterioration of his health has
prompted demonstrations by IMN members. Two of the most recent ones took place in July in Abuja, on 9 and 22 July, and were violently repressed by the police. The authorities have alleged that these demonstrations were violent and participants armed. During the 22 July
demonstration, fatalities were reported, including that of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, as well as a journalist and an unknown number of IMN members. The police officer was reportedly facing the demonstrators and trying to pacify them when he was shot on the back of his head. The Police claims the officer was shot by the protesters. However, no forensic evidence has been made
public up to date.

45. After this demonstration, about nine IMN members are alleged to have died in custody. A total of
12 of the 60 IMN members that remain in detention, have gunshots wounds and fractures and are under the strict custody of the Police.

46. On 26 July 2019, the Federal High Court in Abuja declared the IMN to be an unlawful group. In August, the Nigerian Police issued a circular that directs police officers to ‘ensure that identified leaders of the group and their structures are dismantled, and their activities contained’. This sets
a dangerous precedent for the exercise of the right of freedom of religion and belief, and respect
of fundamental liberties and the right to life.

Widespread excessive use of force:

56. The Government has acknowledged in 2016 that “in the course of security operations against Boko Haram in North-East Nigeria and recently in the context of countering militant and separatist
groups like the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and the Niger Delta Avengers, the Nigerian Military has been accused of extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrarily arrest and detention” The report further states that all allegations of torture,
extrajudicial killings and war crimes made against the Nigerian Military will be investigated.

57. The Constitution allows for a broad use of lethal force, including for the defence of property while the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, and the Police Order 237 authorize the use of force without adequately restricting the nature of the force and setting out the principles of necessity or proportionality. These laws were criticised in the 2006 Report of then Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings (E/CN.4/2006/53/Add.4, paras. 47 and 105(c) and were singled out by the UN Human Rights Committee Concluding observations on Nigeria published on 25 July 2019 (CCPR/C/NGA/CO/R.2, paras. 26 and 27). I can
only concur with these critiques.