The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), a United Kingdom-based Muslim advocacy organisation, has dragged President Muhammadu Buhari, the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, the chief of army staff, Tukur Buratai, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the December 12 to 14, 2015 massacre of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
The organisation also asked the ICC to investigate the emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, and the emir of Zaria, Shehu Idris, for human rights violation and crimes against humanity over the alleged killing of at least 1,000 followers of the Shi’ite group led by Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Other army officers and persons the IHRC asked the ICC to probe for their roles in the massacre are: spokesperson of the Nigerian Army, Sani Usman, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Adeniyi Oyebade, the Commander Nigerian Depot, Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin, Director Military Intelligence, Chief of Defence intelligence – AVM Riku Morgan, AK Ibrahim – Commander 1 Division Garrison, Nigerian Army, Kaduna and Col. F.M Babayo.
The rest are Capt Ben, Adjutant Depot, Nigerian Army; Adeniyi Oyebade, General Officer Commanding, 1 Division Garrison Kaduna; Umar Labdo; Sambo Rigachukun; Bala Lau; Yahaya Jingir and; Kabir Gombe.
In a detailed report, the IHRC argued that attacks of the army on members of IMN between December 12 and 14 in Zaria qualify as crime against humanity and therefore called on the ICC to initiate an investigation into the incident.
According to the IHRC, “ICC prosecutor should open a preliminary examination into the incidents that occurred between the 12th and 14th December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna State”.
It also demanded that the “prosecutor expand(s) its monitoring activities on Nigeria and the army’s involvement in attacks against the IMN that occurred in the period between 2014 and 2015.”
Furthermore, the IHRC asked “the ICC Prosecutor to issue a preventive statement saying that he is monitoring the Nigerian crisis and is aware of the commission of crimes and warn the perpetrators about their criminal liability.”
According to the IHRC, the Zaria killings meet the two criteria of admissibility and gravity, which are prerequisite before the ICC prosecutor could undertake an investigation of an alleged crime against humanity.
The commission said there were no indications from the Federal Government that it was willing to investigate the killings. It also argued that the Nigerian government has a history of shielding persons implicated for serious crimes from “criminal responsibility for the crimes alleged”.
It stated that Mr. El-Rufai has compromised the impartiality and independence of the commission of inquiry his government set up to investigate the massacre by demolishing the properties of the Shi’ite group days after the incident and by listing a litany of grievances against the group in a speech he made.
“At the present time, the available information shows some inadequacies or reluctance on the part of the Nigerian authorities to generally address the violence that occurred on 12-13 December 2015,” the report stated.
“The Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State governor Malam Nasir el-Rufai is insufficiently independent and impartial to be able to hold those responsible to account, nor is there any reasonable prospect of any prosecutions. In his speech, the governor listed a range of grievances against the IMN, which is indicative of bias against the IMN from the start.
“He further proceeded to demolish IMN properties before setting up the commission of the inquiry.
“Both IMN and Amnesty International have expressed concerns that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry is not set up to sufficiently perform a credible inquiry.”
IHRC also claimed that the army used “illegitimate violence and a high degree of brutality” in its alleged unprovoked and premeditated attacks on followers of Mr. El-Zalzaky.
“The attacks were attended by illegitimate violence and a high degree of brutality, insofar as the army opened fire on unarmed civilians; allowed criminals to crudely cut off body parts; proceeded to the excavation of mass graves without permission from the families of the victims and carried out extrajudicial crimes and detained civilians unlawfully,” the report stated.
Horrific details of massacre
The report contains horrific details of the massacre and the destruction of properties owned by the IMN between December 12 and 14.
According to IHRC, which described the attacks on the Shi’ite group as unprovoked and premeditated, the attack was centred on four properties: the Hussainiyyah and religious centre located at No.1A, Sokoto Road; the home of the IMN leader Mr. Zakzaky in the Gyellesu neighbourhood of Zaria; the group’s burial ground of Darur-Rahma, in Dembo village, on the outskirts of Zaria; and the home and burial place of Hajiya Saliha Muhammad, Sayyid Zakzaky’s late mother in the Jushi neighbourhood of Zaria.
On the attack on the Hussainiyyah, the report stated that eyewitnesses and video evidence show how soldiers shot at “small children” and people “without provocation”.
It also said those who ran to the religious centre for refuge were not spared.
“The members of the IMN, who were unarmed, took cover inside the Hussainiyyah. The soldiers cordoned off the Hussainiyyah preventing the injured inside the centre from coming out to seek medical help.
“As a result, many of those with serious gunshot wounds died. The army later killed the majority of those who had sought refuge in the Hussainiyyah, including the injured, women and children when it invaded and destroyed the complex,” said the report.
The report stated that about the same time that the killings at the Hussainiyyah was taking place, another contingent of soldiers was attacking the residence of Mr. El-Zakzaky.
“Another contingent of the Nigerian Army, in about nine trucks carrying heavy arms and ammunition, cordoned off Gyellesu neighbourhood where the leader of IMN, Sayyid Ibrahim Zakzaky resides, some five kilometres away from the Hussainiyyah.
“They started killing unarmed civilians indiscriminately through the day and throughout the course of the night. Whenever they shot someone and others rushed to pick him/her up, the soldiers would then shoot and kill them as well.
“That situation lasted for hours with another reinforcement of soldiers arriving in about as many trucks and Armoured Personnel Carriers. They engaged in continued bloodshed, breaking the human shield made by unarmed members of the IMN with ease, forcing their way through a pile of human corpses to get into Sheikh Zakzaky’s residence.
“They virtually killed their way through. Witnesses have told of how the 500-metre stretch of road leading to the house was filled with corpses. Once at the house, the soldiers used explosives to bring down a section of the house and ignited a fire,” it said.
It claimed further that more than 1,000 people were killed in both attacks, and despite that soldiers proceeded to destroy buildings and grave linked to the IMN.
“Following the attacks against the Hussainiyyah and the residence of Sheikh Zakzaky, the army proceeded to destroy buildings and graves linked to the IMN. The Hussainiyyah at GRA area was completely destroyed.
“The Fudiyya Islamic Centre at Dan Magaji and the family home of Sheikh Zakzaky, where his mother’s tomb is located in Zaria suffered a similar fate.
“Graves belonging to former members of the IMN at the Darur Rahma cemetery situated 10 miles outside of Zaria were demolished,” the report concluded.