Disturbing new evidence of Nigerian soldiers beating a man to death and injuring six others in the northern state of Yobe is a chilling reminder that elements of the Nigerian military need to be reigned in, said Amnesty International today.
The organization is calling for a prompt, independent investigation after being passed photographs of the corpse of Ibrahim Bala bearing marks and scars of a severe beating. Eyewitnesses say he was beaten to death by soldiers last week.
"The death of Ibrahim Bala is a tragic reminder of the consequences of the impunity enjoyed by the military for widespread torture and other gross human rights violations. Those responsible for his death must be brought to justice in fair trials," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International's Africa Director, Research and Advocacy.
Ibrahim Bala, 28, died after he and six other men were beaten by the soldiers in the city of Damaturu, over the night of 21 November and the morning of 22 November. The men were arrested at their homes in the Bundigari district of Damaturu on Saturday night. Soldiers beat the men with sticks outside their homes before taking them to Gorang 3 barracks in Damaturu where they were beaten again the following morning before being released.
Ibrahim Bala was so badly injured from the first beating that he was unable to stand and had to be lifted into the car by the other suspects to be taken to the barracks. He collapsed when the beatings resumed at the barracks in the morning. After the men were released, relatives took Ibrahim Bala to Sani Abacha General Hospital, Damaturu, where he was pronounced dead by doctors that afternoon.
Amnesty International spoke with three witnesses to the arrest who saw at least 10 soldiers beat the men with large sticks on their legs, backs and chests. Witnesses claimed that the soldiers were called to the community after an argument between two youths began at around 9:30pm.
A military spokesperson was quoted in the media saying that he was not aware of the death of Ibrahim Bala, but that an investigation team had been created and its report would be made public.
As this is an apparent death as a result of torture, Nigeria has a clear obligation to conduct an independent, impartial, transparent and effective investigation and to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted in fair trials. This requires that an autopsy be conducted by an independent forensic pathologist. Victims and their families and dependents have a right to reparation, including redress for the violations they have suffered.
"Investigations leading to a public report are vital first steps to providing justice for Ibrahim and his family," said Netsanet Belay.
"While internal investigations are necessary, this incident is part of a wider pattern of beatings and deaths in military custody which need full and independent investigation. President Buhari has pledged to launch such investigations and this issue must be at the top of the new cabinet's agenda."
Amnesty International has consistently documented and condemned human rights abuses and violations by both the armed group Boko Haram and the Nigerian military.
In April 2015 Amnesty International released a report titled “Our job is shoot, slaughter and kill: Boko Haram’s reign of terror in north-east Nigeria” which concluded that Boko Haram has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and calls for its members to be investigated and held accountable for these crimes.
In June 2015 Amnesty International released a report titled “Stars on their shoulders. Blood on their hands. War crimes committed by the Nigerian military” which concluded that the military has committed war crimes and acts which may amount to crimes against humanity. It called for independent investigations into these crimes and names nine individuals who should be investigated for their potential individual or command responsibility for these crimes.