The reinstatement of Major General Ahmadu Mohammed accused of the mass murder of hundreds of detainees has provoked the condemnation of Amnesty International.
The the rights group says it underlines the monumental failure of the Muhammadu Buhari government to stamp out impunity for war crimes at the highest level.
General Mohammed was in charge of 7 Division and was 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 2014 for unrelated reasons, but reinstated in January this year, quietly.
Mohammed was the commander of the war theatre when Boko Haram took control of a large swath of Nigeria’s northeast where the extremists declared an Islamic caliphate, and when the insurgents kidnapped nearly 219 schoolgirls from Chibok town.
He was retired in 2014 after mutinying soldiers shot at him, revolting because they said a dozen colleagues killed by Boko Haram in a night ambush on the road from Chibok had been unnecessarily sent into danger.
Last June, Amnesty International named Major General Ahmadu Mohammed, along with eight other senior commanders, calling for an investigation into their possible criminal responsibility for war crimes including the deaths of more than 8,000 of detainees.
An in-depth report by AI 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.
“Major General Mohammed must be investigated for participating in, sanctioning or failing to prevent the deaths of hundreds of people,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“Young men and boys, rounded up by the military, were either shot, starved, suffocated or tortured to death and no one has yet been held to account. It is unthinkable that Major General Muhammed could resume command of troops before an investigation has even begun.”
The report, ‘Stars on their shoulders, blood on their hands: War crimes committed by the Nigerian military’, was based on years of research and analysis of evidence – including leaked military reports and correspondence, as well as interviews with more than 400 victims, eyewitnesses and senior members of the Nigerian security forces.
It 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 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 personally 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.”
Likewise the President announced on 12 June 2015 that investigating criminal responsibility for the violations documented in Amnesty International’s report would be the first task of the Attorney General. This investigation is yet to begin.
Since the publication of the 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 Mohammed was removed from his post on 16 May 2014 two days after a reported mutiny by his own men. News of his reinstatement reached Amnesty International on 17 January.
“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,” said Salil Shetty.
“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.”
Read More on Amnesty’s Report here: Major General Ahmadu Mohammed – reinstated.