A coalition of civil society groups, and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, on Wednesday held a rally to protest the siege laid last week by a group of protesters to the Abuja office of Amnesty International, AI, the global non-governmental organisation that defends human rights.
The rally, which was held at the Unity Fountain, Abuja and concluded with a solidarity march to the office of AI in Maitama district of the city, was led by Abdul Mahmud, the President of Public Interest Lawyers.
Last week, a group of protesters had barricaded the AI office, demanding that the international organisation vacate Nigeria within 24 hours. The Global Peace and Rescue Initiative, GOPRI, alleged that the global rights organisation was biased in its reports against the Nigerian military.
At the solidarity rally on Wednesday, Mr. Mahmud praised AI for its commitment to human rights as demonstrated throughout the world and especially in Nigeria.
“Some of us are particularly interested in Amnesty International because of the good work they have done in Nigeria. Some of us are also beneficiaries of the campaign of Amnesty International.
“Recently, Amnesty International initiated a campaign for those we describe as our brothers who used to have their house of worship in Zaria, who are here with us, who were exercising their religious right of worship, a constitutionally guaranteed right, who were killed by men of the Nigerian Army, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
“Amnesty did a thorough campaign on its behalf and for the IPOB group, for the militant groups in the Niger Delta and for other minority groups across our country.
“Last week, we read in our national papers and our televisions that sponsored and hired mobs stormed the offices of Amnesty here in Abuja to demand their repatriation from Nigeria and their forceful removal from Abuja. We were taken unawares”, he stated.
Abdulmumuni Giwa, Secretary of the media forum of IMN under the free El-Zakzaky campaign, also addressed the rally.
“On hearing that some hoodlums came to attack the office of Amnesty International, we decided to show solidarity. We are simply here to show solidarity.
“We are still struggling to see that the leader of the Islamic Movement is set free from detention. After the massacre where innocent and unarmed civilians were killed by the men of the Nigerian military, some of them were buried alive. All these things that took place, the Amnesty International stood by us by exposing what the army did.”
In its reports, Amnesty International detailed rights violations by the Nigerian Army including the extra-judicial killing of over 300 IMN members in December 2015 for blocking a road meant to be used by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai. The leader of the IMN, Mr. El-Zakzaky, and his wife, has since then been held in detention without trial.