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No Excuse for Gruesome Unlawful Killings by Nigeria's Military Forces

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Ever since the world turned its attention to north east Nigeria earlier this year following the kidnap of the schoolgirls from Chibok and the intense Bring Back Our Girls campaign, Nigeria's authorities have been under intense pressure to restore peace to that region.

Foreign leaders held meetings to discuss how to tackle the actions of Boko Haram and other armed groups who were destabilising the country's north. International media questioned the Nigerian government's competence on whether they were doing enough to stem the tide of killings, kidnaps and other abuses committed in the region.

It's certainly the case that Nigeria's government has a duty to protect the country's citizens and must do everything they can to secure the return of the women and girls, and stop the abuses committed by Boko Haram and other militant fighters. But, there can be no excuse for the gruesome unlawful killing of detainees - evidence of which was featured in footage recently released by Amnesty International, and more will be shown on Channel 4's Dispatches this evening (Monday 18).

The footage shows graphic detail of detainees having their throats slit and dumped into mass graves by men who appear to be members of the Nigerian military and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) - effectively state sponsored militias. The video also showed how in another incident which took place in Bama - south-east of Maidiguri - the Nigerian military and CJTF ordered men alleged to be Boko Haram members to lie down side by side on the ground, and then beat them with sticks and machetes.
It goes without saying that the situation in north east Nigeria is perilous. Boko Haram and other armed groups have committed some of the most horrific crimes in recent years and have intensified their attacks this year. Residents of Bama - for example - have been living in constant fear of attacks by militant fighters. In February this year Boko Haram staged its most deadly assault on the town. Locals report that attack left almost 100 people dead and more than 200 injured. Improvised explosive devices and grenades were used to destroy huge swathes of the town.

One resident told how the fighters went on a spree of "killing, burning and demolishing". Justice must be carried out swiftly and thoroughly by the Nigerian authorities to stem the killing spree of Boko Haram - that is certain. But this can't be achieved by Nigeria's security forces committing despicable crimes of their own.

Following Amnesty's release of this footage, I was surprised that Nigeria's National Security Adviser chose to criticise Amnesty. Retired Major General Sarkin Yaki Bello claimed that Amnesty had placed its "desire for publicity ahead of the justice and accountability that Amnesty claims to seek for victims". This couldn't be further from the truth. In revealing the brutality and barbaric acts committed by some members of Nigeria's own security forces, it is more likely that the culpable will be quickly located and investigated.

It seems to me as though the fury of the Nigerian officials is wrongly targeted. Rather than pour scorn at the feet of Amnesty for revealing some of the horrific abuses committed by its own security forces, shouldn't there be greater concern and anger at the gruesome unlawful killing of the detainees seen in this footage?

We need to see the Nigerian government carry out an independent investigation into these crimes, rather than the military investigating themselves here.

Let's hope that the Nigerian authorities' reaction to this evening's documentary by Channel 4 galvanises them to take the action not against the media outlet but to track down and bring to justice the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. The government knows its actions are being scrutinised by the world. Let's hope they do all they can to investigate and ensure that suspected perpetrators are given prompt but fair justice so they can stand tall under the media spotlight.

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