International rights advocacy group, Amnesty International, has accused Nigerian security forces of committing a catalogue of human rights violations and crimes under international law in their response to spiralling violence in Southeast Nigeria.
According to a statement released on Thursday by the organisation, Nigeria’s government has responded with a heavy hand to killings and violence widely attributed to the armed group calling itself Eastern Security Network (ESN), the armed wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a pro-Biafra movement.
According to government officials, the ESN killed dozens of security operatives and attacked at least ten public buildings, including prisons and police stations, from January to June. In response, security forces comprising military, police, and Department of State Services (DSS) have killed dozens of gunmen, as well as civilians, where attacks have been committed.
“The evidence gathered by Amnesty International paints a damning picture of ruthless excessive force by Nigerian security forces in Imo, Anambra and Abia states,” said Osai Ojigho, Country Director at Amnesty International.
The statement further reads;
“Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that the security forces have engaged in excessive use of force, physical abuse, secret detentions, extortion, burning of houses, theft, and extrajudicial executions of suspects. Human rights groups estimated that the death toll of violence between January and June 2021 in Anambra, Imo, Abia, and Ebonyi states might run into the hundreds. The police said ESN fighters killed 21 of its personnel in Imo state alone.
Amnesty International carried out an extensive investigation to document the human rights violations and crimes under international law in Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and Abia states from January 2021.
The organization documented 52 incidents of unlawful killings and 62 cases of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and torture. Media reports, video and audio recordings reviewed show that the Nigerian security forces also employed excessive force and other unlawful means to address the rising violence.”
“What is needed is an impartial and open inquiry to determine what happened and bring to justice all those suspected of criminal responsibility in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to death penalty,” Osai Ojigho stated further.