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10 points: Amnesty International releases report on Army’s attempted cover-up of Shi’ites slaughter

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10 points: Amnesty International releases report on Army’s attempted cover-up of Shi’ites slaughter

1) Amnesty International has released a new report titled “Unearthing the truth: Unlawful killings and mass cover-up in Zaria”. Using satellite images, interviews and eye witnesses, the report shone the light on the brutal massacre of Nigerians who are members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) by officials of the Nigerian Army between December 12 to December 14th last year.

In all 92 people were interviewed including victims, witnesses from the Shi’ite and other communities, relatives of victims, residents of the areas where the incidents took place, lawyers and medical personnel

2) The report found that huge efforts were made to cover up the mass killing by soldiers of the more than 350 murdered Nigerians including women and children.

“The true horror of what happened over those two days in Zaria is only now coming to light. Bodies were left littered in the streets and piled outside the mortuary. Some of the injured were burned alive,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.

“Our research, based on witness testimonies and analysis of satellite images, has located one possible mass grave. It is time now for the military to come clean and admit where it secretly buried hundreds of bodies.”

3) It should be noted that up till now hundreds of Shiites are still being detained, including the leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife. Zakzaky who has been in custody for four months was only allowed to meet with a lawyer on 1st April. Up till now, relatives and members of the sect have been denied access to Zakzaky. Yet, the federal government of Nigeria, led by President Muhammadu Buhari has been largely silent over the atrocity. The chief of army staff, Tukur Buratai, who ordered the mass killing, still occupies his position.

Only this week, 50 members of the sect were finally charged to court. The Kaduna government is seeking a death penalty for them.

4) When some Shi’ites blocked the road and prevented the convoy of the chief of army staff, Tukur Buratai, from passing on a road close to the sect’s headquarters, The Hussainiyya, the army said that it was an attempt to kill Buratai, a charge which the sect members deny. Army officers shot indiscriminately to disperse them, killing several people, but then went back later to their mosque, schools and residences and began to deliberately murder members of the sect. Not even kids were exempted by the rampaging army.

Zainab, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, was quoted by Amnesty International: “We were in our school uniforms. My friend Nusaiba Abdullahi was shot in her forehead. We took her to a house where they treated the injured but, before reaching the house, she already died.”

Bodies of people who were injured when the soldiers attacked, were burnt.

5) On 11 April, the secretary to the Kaduna State government told the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the state governor that the bodies of 347 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) were collected from the hospital mortuary and an army depot in Zaria and buried secretly in a mass grave near Mando (outside the town of Kaduna) on the night of 14-15 December.

6) After murdering all those people in cold blood, here’s what the Army did next, according to the Amnesty International report: The military sealed off the areas around El-Zakzaky’s compound, the Hussainiyya and other locations. Bodies were taken away, sites were razed to the ground, the rubble removed, bloodstains washed off, and bullets and spent cartridge removed from the streets. Remember also that the Army quickly went and made a complaint at the National Human Rights Commission that an attempt was made on Buratai’s life, and then claimed that only three persons were killed. This was done after they assumed they had removed all the evidence.

7) Witnesses saw piles of bodies outside the morgue of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Zaria. A senior medical source told Amnesty International that the military sealed off the area around the morgue for two days. During that time he saw army vehicles “coming and going”.

A witness described to Amnesty International what he saw outside the hospital mortuary on the evening of 14 December: “It was dark and from far I could only see a big mound but when I got closer I saw it was a huge pile of corpses on top of each other. I have never seen so many dead bodies. I got very scared and run away. It was a terrible sight and I can’t get it out of my mind.”

Another witness told the organisation how he had seen diggers excavating holes at the site of the suspected mass grave: “There were five or six large trucks and several smaller military vehicles and they spent hours digging and unloading the trucks’ cargo into the hole they dug and then covered it again with the earth they had dug out. They were there from about 1 or 2 am until about 5 am. I don’t know what they buried. It looked like bodies, but I could not get near.”

8) Amnesty International identified and visited the location of a possible mass grave near Mando. Satellite images of the site taken on 2 November and 24 December 2015 show disturbed earth spanning an area of approximately 1000 square metres. Satellite pictures also show the complete destruction of buildings and mosques.

“It is clear that the military not only used unlawful and excessive force against men, women and children, unlawfully killing hundreds, but then made considerable efforts to try to cover-up these crimes,” said Netsanet Belay.

“Four months after the massacre the families of the missing are still awaiting news of their loved ones. A full independent forensic investigation is long overdue. The bodies must be exhumed, the incident must be impartially and independently investigated and those responsible must be held to account.”

9) Amnesty International called for those IMN supporters charged in connection with this incident to be tried promptly and fairly and for those still held in detention without charge to be either immediately charged or released.

10) The group also urged the Nigerian government to thoroughly investigate the killings and punish those responsible.

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