by Idris Ibrahim
Despite pledging that it would not submit memorandum nor appear before a government panel set up to review cases of human rights abuses by the military, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, has backtracked.
The group said the leader of the group, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, has instructed the legal team to submit a memo to the panel.
In a statement on Saturday issued by it spokesperson, Ibrahim Musa, IMN said it has completed the filing of memorandum to the Presidential Investigative Panel.
“Notwithstanding the doubts of the fairness, independence and impartiality of the Presidential Panel, the leader of the Movement, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky has decided that a memo be sent to the Presidential Panel after a rare meeting with the head of the Legal team, Barr Femi Falana SAN last week,” Mr. Musa said.
“It was only the second time the Sheikh was allowed to meet with the legal team in 22 months of illegal detention,” he added.
The commission which was inaugurated by the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on August 11, has seven members headed by a justice of the court of appeal, Biobele Georgewill.
However, two weeks before the judicial panel begin its public hearing September 11, the group told PREMIUM TIMES that it will not appear or make any presentation before the panel.
The group questioned the credibility of the panel and said it would not appear before the panel unless its concerns are resolved.
In a petition dated August 17, addressed to Mr. Osinbajo and signed by Abdullahi Danladi, the group raised concerns about the composition of the panel.
“From the composition of this panel, it is noted that the military, the police and security agencies are all represented. This is not the case with the well-known community of victims of the alleged military violations such as us. With due respect to members in the panel, the “eyes” of the world renowned human rights bodies are also not on this panel.”
The petition seen by PREMIUM TIMES also accused the presidency of appointing a close ally to the army chief and a member who served in an earlier panel by Kaduna State as members of the panel.
However, the group on Saturday said that the crime of the military against IMN were beyond human rights abuses.
“As the largest single group of victims of Nigerian Military’s most brutal and flagrant abuses of human rights in the country, the Islamic Movement has all it takes to nail the planners and executors of the mass killing of our members in July 2014 and the more audacious Zaria genocide of December 2015, which involved horrendous mass murder of over a thousand unarmed civilians within a few hours, arson, looting, rape, hate speeches and campaigns, genital mutilation with aim of limiting reproduction within the group, mass graves, wrongful detention and enforced disappearances.
“The crimes of the military against the Islamic Movement were not mere human rights abuses but indeed crimes against humanity, for which the International Criminal Court at The Hague has since opened a preliminary investigation. It remains to be seen whether the present presidential panel is sufficiently independent to do a thorough job,” the statement noted.
Over 300 members of the Shiite group were killed in December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna State, when the army clamped down on the IMN members after it accused them of blocking a road and plotting to kill the Chief of Army Staff.
The leader of the IMN, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, was also arrested alongside his wife and has been in government custody without trial since then.
Nobody has been prosecuted for the killings which was condemned by local and international human rights groups.