Human right lawyer Mr Femi Falana (SAN) has urged the Federal Government to quickly release detained leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky so as to avoid another crisis.
According to him, continued detention of the Islamic cleric and killing of peaceful Shi’ite protesters by security forces could lead the country into fresh insurgency that Nigeria may not be able to control.
“This nation cannot afford another war of insurgency, which is being provoked by the contemptuous conduct of the Federal Government in the handling of the case of the El-Zakzakys,” Falana said.
Chronicling the arrest and detention of the Shi’ite leader and his wife, Malama Zainab El-Zakzaky last December 12, the lawyer said over 1,000 Shi’ites were reportedly killed by soldiers on alleged orders of Nigerian Army’s high command and given mass burial in an unmarked grave in Mango village, Kaduna State, over allegations of attempt to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, The Nation reports
“Without any autopsy or identification, the slaughtered Shi’ites were given a mass burial in an unmarked grave in Mango village in Kaduna State.
“Even though Sheik El-Zakzaky was not on the scene of the attack, his home was invaded by the rampaging troops two days later. The troops set the house ablaze, shot at El-Zakzaky, his wife and killed three of their sons in cold blood in their presence.
“As if such barbaric assault was not enough, the Army arrested and held El-Zakzaky and his wife in custody before handing them over to the State Security Service (DSS). At that stage, the houses of El-Zakzaky and other leaders in Zaria, Kaduna State, were demolished by the state government on the orders of Governor Nasir El-Rufai,” he said.
Falana said the state government constituted a judicial commission of enquiry which established that there was no plan by the Shi’ites to assassinate Gen. Buratai.
He said the findings of the commission revealed that 347 Shi’ites were massacred by the Army in violation of the Army Rules of Engagement and the Geneva Conventions.
The lawyer said the commission of enquiry called for the prosecution of those involved in the killings.
Falana said: “The detained El-Zakzaky was prevented from responding to the allegations against him and his group at the enquiry. But the judicial commission found that there was no plan by the Shi’ites to assassinate General Buratai.
“It was also revealed at the panel that 347 Shi’ites were massacred by the army in violations of the Army Rules of Engagement and the Geneva Conventions. Apart from condemning the brutal killing of the Shi’ites, the judicial commission recommended that the culprits would be prosecuted.
“Instead of implementing the recommendations by prosecuting the well-known murderers, the Kaduna State government turned round to charge over 300 Shi’ites with culpable homicide of a soldier who was killed by his colleagues during the attack.
“But the defence team convinced the Kaduna State High Court to free the Shi’ites as they were not involved in the commission of the offence. Accordingly, the charge was dismissed for want of evidence while the trial court proceeded to discharge and acquit all the defendants.
“Meanwhile, the suit challenging the illegal detention of El-Zakzaky and his wife was decided in their favour by the Federal High Court on December 2, 2016. The presiding judge, Kolawole J. (as he then was), directed the Federal Government to release the couple from unlawful custody, pay them N50 million reparation and provide them with a temporary house since the Army had burnt down their personal home.
“But the Buhari regime has characteristically treated the court orders with arrogant contempt. Curiously, the Court of Appeal has refused to hear the application to commit the Director General of the Department State Services (DSS) for contempt of court.
“Upon our legal advice, the Shi’ites approached three separate High Courts to challenge the violation of their rights to assemble and protest peacefully. The Shi’ites won the cases against the Federal Government as the courts upheld their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
“But out of sheer impunity, the Army has killed about 50 Shi’ites at Abuja for protesting against the continued detention of El-Zakzaky and his wife. As the Federal Government could no longer justify the illegal detention of El-Zakzaky and his wife, it directed the Kaduna State government to file a charge against them.”