Human rights monitoring organization, Amnesty International, AI, came under fire as it testified before the Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement, after it emerged that it tried proving its earlier reports with manipulated videos and pictures before the panel.
Amnesty International, led by Professor Ernest Ojukwu, appeared before the panel to demonstrate and prove to the panel human rights abuses which it had earlier published and circulated widely before Nigerians and members of the international community in an attempt to stop the military from fighting terrorism.
The Nigerian Army team led by Professor Yemi George, who cross-examined Amnesty International’s researchers at the tribunal on their methodology, said the entire report lacks any iota of credibility to be published in the first instance, if not for selfish motives.
It was therefore a case of helplessness for Amnesty International throughout the session as experts who appeared before the panel seem not to have either prepared the report or part of the investigation that produced the video and pictures being used by the organization against the military.
The ongoing public sitting briefly descended into exchange of heated words between members of the panel and the Amnesty International (AI) representatives.
The brief rancour started when a member of the panel, Olawale Fapohunda asked the representatives of AI if they are aware that having access to restricted documents they copiously referred to in their report is an illegal act.
To this, AI’s Senior Director for Research, Dr. Anna Neistat, replied that if the panel is accusing the organization of committing any crime, the organization would like its corporate lawyer to be present.
“If you insist AI should answer this question, it would be provided in writing after consulting with our organisation’s lawyer,” she added.
Fapohunda earlier asked if in the over 55 years existence of AI, if there is any occasion where it was discovered that facts contained in their publications were found to be incorrect.
“Yes, there are cases of minor errors discovered and in all these cases, they have been immediately corrected and rightly communicated. But none of these errors have ever affected any of the allegations we raised. We have extreme rigorous process before publishing our reports,” Neistat answered.
However, when another member of the panel, Maj. Gen. Patrick Akem (Rtd) said he found it shocking that AI did not visit Maiduguri before publishing its report “Stars on their shoulder, blood on their hands”; counsel representing AI, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) replied that the panel is already “telling us your result without any conclusion. You are already shocked and it sounds conclusive.”
At this point, the Chairman of the panel, Sir Justice Biobele A. Georgewill intervened, assuring that although it is expected that there would be little altercation in such hearings, no single panel member will have a final say.
“Please, ignore these exchanges, just let the panel conclude its investigation,” he said.
The Chairman however asked AI how it expects the panel to go about investigating the allegations when AI did not provide specifics or present eye-witnesses.
“Groups like us document our allegations to form a prima facie case for government to investigate. Our role is not to implicate any individual,” AI’s Director of Research and Advocacy for Africa, Netsanet Belay said.
In an incident that further underscores Amnesty International’s growing loss of credibility in Nigeria and other parts of the world, the Save Humanity Advocacy Centre (SHAC) said it would be forced to kick the international NGO out of Nigeria if the Federal Government fails to expel it for its many atrocities against the country.
SHAC said it takes particular exception to reports by Amnesty International like “Blood on Their Hands,” and other reports aimed at undermining the ability of Nigerian military and security agencies to respond to security threats and protect citizens. It disclosed it would mobilize Nigerians to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reject the NGO’s position while ensuring that Amnesty International is compelled to pay the necessary compensation for the damages done to the image of the country.
The video, pictures and submissions were earlier discredited by the Nigerian human rights and humanitarian organization, SHAC, which paraded nine International experts on human rights and conflict resolution.
SHAC’s team included Ambassador Lumumba D’Aping, a one-time Sudanese Ambassador to the United Nations, David Falt, Founder of Preventive Diplomacy in Geneva, Mary Johnson, a practicing human rights lawyer in the United States and United Kingdom. It also has a lawyer, Edward Omaga , Professor Shuaibu Danfulani of the University of Abuja and Dr. Ifure Ataifure of the Centre for International Strategic Studies, Abuja.
The local NGO which submitted 3 memos on the Nigerian State’s response to threats to humanity had monitored proceedings of the panel since its inauguration including a visit to the north east, south east and south-south geo-political zones of the country where its experts assessed the threats being faced by the people of Nigeria.
Lead Counsel to SHAC, Edward Omaga esq whilst speaking to pressmen after the sitting said Amnesty International should apologize to the Nigerian people for the various unsubstantiated allegations it published as reports in online and electronic media even before approaching the panel and the International Criminal Court (ICC) without a single proof to back up its claim.
He warned that “failure by Amnesty International to do this within 14 days will force SHAC to institute an action against them at the International Criminal Court same way they did against the Nigerian authorities as their motive has clearly been exposed by their poor outings before this panel in Nigeria.
“AI has constituted itself into a court where the same party acts as a judge, a victim and a defendant in its own case. This must not be tolerated any further anywhere close to Nigeria soil and the attempts to discredit the Federal Government in protecting its citizens has surely failed,” he stated.
Omaga also said “Nigerians will not forgive Amnesty International for trying to twist the successes of the anti-terrorism campaigns against those whose blood was used as sacrifices for us to have the current peace and tranquility in the country.”
He called on genuine NGOs and international partners to support Nigeria in addressing the humanitarian issues in the north east and other parts of Nigeria and not to add to the woes of the people in any way.