Nigeria: Major General implicated in mass murder reinstated to army
- Major General in command of operations where army executed 640 detainees
- President Buhari yet to fulfil June 2014 promise to investigate Amnesty findings
- More than 7,000 starved, suffocated, and tortured to death in military detention camps
The reinstatement of a Nigerian military general implicated in the murder of hundreds of detainees underlines the monumental failure of the government to stamp out impunity for war crimes at the highest level, said Amnesty International.
In a report published last June, Amnesty named Major General Ahmadu Mohammed, along with eight other senior commanders, and called for an investigation into their possible responsibility for war crimes including the deaths of more than 8,000 detainees.
Major General Ahmadu was in charge of the 7th Infantry Division and in command of operations when the military executed more than 640 detainees following a Boko Haram attack on the detention centre in Giwa barracks on 14 March 2014. He was retired in May of that year for unrelated reasons, but reinstated this month.
Amnesty’s June 2015 report, Stars on their shoulders, blood on their hands: War crimes committed by the Nigerian military, exposed a range of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by the military in the course of operations against Boko Haram.
It found that, since March 2011, more than 7,000 were starved, suffocated, and tortured to death in military detention camps. A further 1,200 were rounded up and unlawfully killed. It also named nine senior Nigerian military figures along the chain of command who should be investigated for potential command and individual responsibility for the crimes committed.
Hours after the publication of the report on 3 June, President Buhari responded on Twitter to say: "I assure you that your report will be looked into…This administration will leave no stone unturned to promote the rule of law, and deal with all cases of human rights abuses."
The President also announced on 12 June 2015 that investigating criminal responsibility for the violations documented in Amnesty’s report would be the first task of the Attorney General. This investigation is yet to begin.
Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty said:
“Major General Mohammed must be investigated for participating in, sanctioning or failing to prevent the deaths of hundreds of people. It is unthinkable that Major General Muhammed could resume command of troops before an investigation has even begun.
“Seven months after the publication of these horrific discoveries and the President’s pledge that they will be looked into, we continue to call for urgent independent investigations to begin.
“Those responsible for the crimes detailed in Amnesty International’s report must be held to account, no matter their rank or position. Only then can there be justice for the dead and their relatives.”
In November 2015 the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court identified two potential cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes by the Nigerian military. These relate to the arrest, detention, torture and death in custody of Boko Haram suspects and extrajudicial executions, including of recaptured detainees on 14 March 2014. The prosecutor is assessing the admissibility of the potential cases in order to reach a decision on whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met.
Since the publication of Amnesty’s June 2015 report, four of the named military commanders have retired. Two others had already retired prior to the publication of the report. The current status of two Brigadier Generals is unknown.
Major General Ahmadu Mohammed - reinstated.
Commander of 7th Infantry Division (24 February - 16 May 2014)
During this period, Amnesty documented arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention of thousands of people in inhumane conditions, the deaths in custody of large numbers of detainees and extrajudicial executions committed by Nigerian troops under his command. Major General Mohammed was reinstated in January 2016 and is waiting to be assigned a post.
Major General John A.H. Ewansiha - currently retired.
General Officer Commanding of Operation Restore Order I (ORO) and Operation BOYONA (January 2012 - August 2013). As GOC of ORO and Operation BOYONA, he was informed about the arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention of thousands of people in inhumane conditions, the deaths in custody of large numbers of detainees and extrajudicial executions in areas under his command in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
He received regular reports indicating the commission of these crimes by his subordinates and failed to take measures to stop and prevent them or to bring those responsible to account. In August 2013, he became Chief of Standards and Evaluation at Army Headquarters and Chief of Training and Operations at Army Headquarters.
Major General Obida T Ethan - currently retired
Commander of 7th Infantry Division (22 August 2013 - 1 January 2014). Took over command of military operations in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in August 2013 from Major General Ewansiha. During this period, Amnesty documented arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention of thousands of people in inhumane conditions, the deaths in custody of large numbers of detainees and extrajudicial executions committed by Nigerian troops under his command.
Brigadier General Austin O. Edokpayi – status unknown
In command of the Multinational Joint Task Force based in Baga (April 2013 - Dec 2013) where Nigerian soldiers were responsible for arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention, the extrajudicial executions of more than 185 people in April 2013, and deaths in custody in Baga detention facility.
Brigadier General Rufus O. Bamigboye – status unknown
Commander of the 21 Armoured Brigade, stationed in Giwa barracks (Feb 2012 – Sept 2013). He was in charge of the barracks during the period when at least 5,000 detainees died in custody, and when torture and ill-treatment were used routinely. In December 2013, he was promoted to Deputy Director of Operations at Defence Headquarters. According to media reports, Brigadier General Bamigboye was appointed Chief of Staff of 81 Division in July 2015. Amnesty has not been able to verify his current status.
Amnesty also calls for the following high-level military commanders to be investigated for their potential command responsibility for crimes committed by their subordinates given that they knew or should have known about the commission of the crimes, and failed to take adequate action:
Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika: Chief of Army Staff (Sept 2010 - Jan 2014)
Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim: Chief of Defence Staff (4 Oct 2012 - Jan 2014)
Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh: Chief of Defence Staff (Jan 2014 - 16 July 2015)
Lt. General Ken Minimah Chief of Army Staff (Jan 2014 - 16 July 2015)