Friday, 10 June 2016

"Investigation confirms Nigerian Army killed 17 unarmed Biafran supporters" – Amnesty International

Biafra protests
Amnesty International says its investigation has confirmed that the Nigerian army gunned down 17 unarmed people during last month’s Biafran commemoration events in Onitsha, Anambra State.

In a statement on Friday, the international human rights body said evidence gathered from eyewitnesses, morgues and hospitals confirms that between 29-30 May, 2016, the Nigerian military opened fire on members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), supporters and bystanders at three locations in the town.
“Opening fire on peaceful IPOB supporters and bystanders who clearly posed no threat to anyone is an outrageous use of unnecessary and excessive force and resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. In one incident one person was shot dead after the authorities burst in on them while they slept,” said M.K. Ibrahim, Country Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“These shootings, some of which may amount to extrajudicial executions, must be urgently and independently investigated and anyone suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice. The exact number of deaths is unknown, partly due to the fact that the Nigerian army took away corpses and the injured,” it said.
The body said it received reports from various sources on the ground alleging that at least 40 people were killed and more than 50 injured.
“After visits to hospitals and morgues, the organization has confirmed-based on this initial investigation – that at least 17 people were killed and nearly 50 injured. The real number is likely to be higher. Some of the dead and injured IPOB supporters seen by an Amnesty International researcher were shot in the back, an indication that they were fleeing the scene when they were shot,” it said.
The leadership of IPOB claim more than 50 of their members were killed. The Nigerian army has said in a statement that they acted in self-defence, and five IPOB members were killed.

However, the statement said Amnesty International has seen no evidence that the killings were necessary to protect life, saying that although the police also claim that IPOB supporters killed two policemen the next day in neighbouring Asaba, Delta state, which Amnesty International cannot confirm.
“However, such killings would not substantiate the army’s argument they acted in self-defence,” the body said.
A joint security operation was carried out by the Nigerian army, police and navy between the night of 29 May and throughout 30 May, apparently intended to prevent a march by IPOB members from the Nkpor motor park to a nearby field for a rally. Before the march began, the military raided homes and a church where IPOB members were sleeping.

IPOB supporters told Amnesty International that hundreds of people who had come from neighbouring states, were asleep in the St Edmunds Catholic church when soldiers stormed the compound on 29 May.
“I saw one boy trying to answer a question. He immediately raised his hands, but the soldiers opened fire…He lay down, lifeless. I saw this myself,” a witness said.
A 32-year-old hairdresser who was in the church told Amnesty International: “At about midnight, we heard someone banging the door. We refused to open the door but they forced the door open and started throwing teargas. They also started shooting inside the compound. People were running to escape. I saw one guy shot in the stomach. He fell down but the teargas could not allow people to help him. I did not know what happened to the guy as I escaped and ran away.”

Another witness told Amnesty International that on the morning of 30 May he saw soldiers open fire on a group of around 20 men and boys aged between 15 and 45 at the Nkpor Motor Park. He says that five of them were killed. “I stood about two poles [approximately 100 metres] away from where the men were being shot and killed. I couldn’t quite hear what they were asking the boys, but I saw one boy trying to answer a question. He immediately raised his hands, but the soldiers opened fire… He lay down, lifeless. I saw this myself.”

The witness described how military officers loaded men with gunshot wounds into one van, and what appeared to be corpses into another. Later that morning, another witness described how police shot a child bystander as a group of young men protested the shootings, blocking a road and burning tyres along the Eke-Nkpor junction.

He told Amnesty International: “I heard a police siren and everybody started running helter-skelter. I ran away with other people, but before we left, the police fired tear gas at us and shot a boy in my presence. He was just hawking in the street. He wasn’t even there to protest,” he said.


Credit: PM News

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