Killers of 34 Shia protesters in Zaria must be punished – Odinkalu

Chidi Odinkalu, Chair, National Human Rights Commission

Military personnel involved in the killing of 34 peaceful protesters during the pro-Palestinian rally in Zaria on July 25, 2015 must be brought to book, the chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Chidi Odinkalu, has said.

“If that number of people (34) can just be killed and nothing happens, then that is oppression,” the rights chief said during a conference to commemorate the killing of the Quds day protesters in Abuja on Sunday.

Speaking on the topic “From Al-Quds to Zaria: A melting pot of rights violation, veil of bias and conspiracy of silence,” Mr. Odinkalu said the NHRC “owes the country a duty to investigate and find out what truly happened that day and those implicated punished.”

He decried the conspiracy of silence of the killings, saying “if 34 young men would be killed in cold blood and then their families would be told to keep quiet, then that is the worst oppression.”

He said the greatest injustice is to “allow a parent to bury his three young children murdered in cold blood in the same day while the society keeps quiet.”

He said the rights commission would soon conduct a public hearing to get to the root of the Zaria killings and ensure that all those implicated are appropriately prosecuted.

The NHRC chief said the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibraheem Zakzaky, whose three undergraduate sons were among those killed, is not only a religious leader but a human rights leader.

“The Shia community in Nigeria has been oppressed unjustifiably for so long in this country,” Mr. Odinkalu said.

He also said Mr. Zakzaky was among the few Nigerians that stood against the Sani Abacha military brutal regime that clamped down on human rights campaigners.

Other speakers at the event were the Chief Imam of Washington DC, Muhammad Al-Asi; Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, London; Dahiru Yahaya of Bayero University, Kano; Yohanna Buru, an inter-faith campaigner; and Ebenezer Oyetakin of the Anti-corruption network for justice.

There was also a documentary and exhibition on the images, sights and sounds of the Zaria Quds day massacre at the event.

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