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IHRC renews calls for release of Zakzaky, IMN members

30 July 2016 9:39

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IHRC has renewed its call on authorities to release the leader of Nigeria’s Islamic Movement (IMN) and scores of his followers seven months after they were detained following a bloody military assault on the organization.

Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife Zeenat remain in the custody of the country’s domestic intelligence agency (DSS). At the same time almost 200 IMN members continue to languish in custody awaiting trial on trumped up charges designed to deflect blame for last December’s violence away from the army and onto innocent citizens. Neither Sheikh Zakzaky nor his wife have been charged with any offences.

IHRC understands that many of the detainees still have shrapnel lodged in their bodies since the attack in December 2015 and have not received adequate medical attention. Two victims have already died in custody. Sheikh Zakzaky himself has lost the use of an arm and one of his eyes and he is slowly losing his sight in his other eye due to inadequate medical attention.

IHRC is deeply concerned about the health of Sheikh Zakzaky. Constitutionally, it is mandatory for the Nigerian state and those holding him to release him urgently and unconditionally to enable him seek proper medical care in any place of his choice. Since he is not charged with any crime, he should be freed from what amounts to illegal detention. Holding him hostage is unconstitutional and a clear violation of his basic rights.

The military assault December 12-14 in the northern Nigerian city of Zaria left more than 1000 people dead and many properties and religious spaces belonging to the IMN and its members destroyed.

A judicial commission of inquiry into the massacre recommended earlier this month that the general behind the savage attack be prosecuted. The panel’s report which has yet to be made public is believed to accuse the General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army’s 1st Division, Adeniyi Oyebade of orchestrating the military operation outside the chain of command.

Earlier this year IHRC called on the International Criminal Court to open a preliminary enquiry into the Zaria massacre.

IHRC is also concerned about the state’s attempts to shield the soldiers responsible for the killings. On 26 July the Director of Public Prosecution filed a motion seeking anonymity for troops due to testify against the IMN members on trial on the pretext that they are afraid for their safety.

If it is approved this will mean their evidence will be given in secret. This would be a very disturbing development in that not only would the perpetrators of the violence be testifying against its victims but they would be doing so without allowing their victims to know their identities and hence preventing them from constructing a fair defense.

It is patently unjust for a criminal case to be conducted where the accused does not know who the accuser is or the evidence against them. Such secrecy also erodes any confidence in the states claim that due process is being followed.

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