Killing (Bombing) Of 236 Citizens In Borno IDP Camp: NigerianGovernment Has Breached The Geneva Conventions And Committed War Crimes

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Killing (Bombing) Of 236 Citizens In Borno IDP Camp: Nigerian

Government Has Breached The Geneva Conventions And Committed War

(Intersociety, Onitsha Nigeria: 25th January 2017)-Nigeria’s

Government grossly belated and reprobated ownership of the high death

toll following its Air Force wilful bombing of the Rann IDP Camp in

Borno State, Northeast Nigeria on 17th January 2017; is a clear case

of commission of War Crimes and violation of the UN Purposes and

Principles and the Fundamental Rules of the International Law and

Humanitarian Principles- Emeka Umeagbalasi, Criminologist & Graduate

of Security Studies and Board Chair-Intersociety Nigeria.

Since August 2015, the Nigerian security forces or Armed Forces led by

the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force; joined by the

Presidency, have continually bastardized and corrupted the concept of

the Rules of Engagement of the Geneva Conventions or Laws of War of

1949 under the UN System. The bastardization and corruption have been

carried out by way of violent crackdowns on unarmed and defenceless

citizens engaging or agitating non-violently for their constitutional,

regional and international rights to religious and ethno-racial self

determination through night vigils and street or road processions,

matches, rallies and protests; other than armed rebellion or conflict.

The mass killings by Nigerian security forces following street

rallies, processions and protests by millions of unarmed citizens have

been criminally labelled “exercise of their military mandates under

the Rules of Engagement”.
Again, since late May 2015 till date, the present sixth civilian

central Government in Nigeria has steadily and grossly threatened and

undermined the nobility and aristocracy of civil government and

reduced same to government founded on falsehood, rascality and

gangsterism. Expressions and explanations of government policies and

conducts have been mired in confusion, misdirection, criminal

spinning, misrepresentation, executive recklessness and rascality; to

the extent that out of every five executive explanations or statements

made on major issues of public concerns, four are founded on falsehood

or untruth till date.
It is recalled that the Nigerian Armed Forces particularly the

Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force have since 2009 engaged in

counter insurgency operations against the Boko Haram terrorists in the

Northeast Nigeria with attendant gross rights abuses. Camps for the

internationally displaced persons (IDPs) were created and clearly

mapped and marked. Severally the Nigerian Military had claimed that it

was very mindful of civilian populations or settlements in its air

attacks in the area. In December 2016, the Army Chief, Lt Gen Tukur

Buratai declared total victory against Boko Haram terrorists and

claimed that its stronghold and the Sambisa Forest have been totally

cleared of the terrorists. Hundreds of arrested and held Boko Haram

terror suspects have also been released as uninvolved or repentant.

Shockingly, on 17th January 2017, strongly suspected government

influenced news broke out, claiming that “there was a mistake air

bombing of an IDP camp in Borno State claiming few lives and scores of

injuries”. Some aid agencies most likely under pressures from the

Nigerian Government later disclosed that “54 citizens died including

some aid workers with dozens of others injured”. Almost a week later,

the Chairman of Kala-Balge LGA of Borno State, where the wilful

bombing and killing took place; Babagana Malarima, courageously

disclosed publicly that “they buried 234 citizens excluding two that

just died in Maiduguri Hospital”. Over 90 others were critically

injured; and barely two days ago, the Presidency accepted the death

toll figure as given by the LGA Chairman.
Consequently, we at International Society for Civil Liberties and the

Rule of Law see the wilful air strike and accompanying killing of 236

defenceless and war traumatized citizens as nothing short of war

crimes and gross breach of the Rules of Engagement under the UN

System. Till date, the Minister of Defence, National Security Adviser,

Minister of Interior, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Defence Staff and

Chief of Army Staff are still hanging on to their official positions

as if nothing has happened. The Presidency, on its part, appears busy

fighting to cover up the massacre and no serious or credible

international investigation has been carried out. The international

aid agencies working in the area particularly those that lost scores

of their staff in the wilful air strike have also done little or

nothing. It may likely be that they are under intense pressures from

the Presidency to shut up and cover up.
Technically and expertly speaking, the modern journey to the enactment

of the Laws of War or Geneva Conventions under the present UN system

started as far back as in 1864 when the Swiss Government convened the

first international conference in Humanitarian Law, leading to the

first Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Conditions of the

Wounded in Armies in the Field. The Laws of War or Geneva Conventions

simply mean the rules guiding the conduct of the war, the war itself

and its aftermath; violation of same amounts to war crimes on

Preceding the Laws of War or Geneva Conventions is the concept of Just

War or why and how wars are fought. The three main facets of the

concept or theory of Just War are: Jus Ad Bellum-justification and

ground for going to war; Jus In Bellum-ethical rules of conducts

during the war such as ethical standard expected of soldiers and other

combatants in war time: i.e. rules of engagement; and Jus Post

Bellum-regulations of how wars are ended and transition from war to

peace. These were fully incorporated into the Geneva Conventions by

way of rules of engagement, legitimate use of force, self defence and

concept of non-military necessity.
Further, in 1929, the Geneva Conventions were reviewed and the

treatment of prisoners of war was added. In 1949, the Geneva

Conventions increased to four with the addition of the protection of

civilians in time of war; in inter-State or international conflict. In

1977, two additional Protocols were included in the Geneva Conventions

for the purpose of strengthening the protection of victims of

international or inter-State conflict; and addition of a new protocol

for the protection of civilians or non combatants in Intra State or

non international conflict (i.e. Boko Haram insurgency and its counter

insurgency operations in northeast Nigeria).
One of the gravest violations of the Geneva Conventions or Laws of War

is attack or fatal bombing of civilian population or settlement in

conflict affected areas by warring parties particularly the host

political territory and its armed forces. This is also called “attacks

on non military necessity”. It is expressly a commission of war crimes

with monumental legal consequences on the part of the defaulting

party. Mass killing of civilians who are unarmed and defenceless in

non war situation expressly amounts to crimes against humanity.

Nigeria as a leading UN Member-State from Africa is morally and

legally bound by the Principles of the United Nations; which clearly

states as follows: The principles of the UN are to save future

generations from war, reaffirm human rights, and establish equal

rights for all persons; in addition to promotion of justice, freedom,

and social progress for the peoples of all of its member states.

Nigeria is also bound by the Customary International Law under UN

System particularly those that are inviolable by virtue of their

principle of “substantial uniformity by substantial number of States”

or “Opinio Juris” (i.e. a general belief binding on all Member-States

that a non-treaty is legally binding on States); and importantly, the

principle of “Jus Cogens” (i.e. absolute rules of general

international law binding on UN Member-States for which no derogation

is permitted). These include prohibition on illegitimate use of force,

genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, slavery, torture,

We hereby call for extensive international investigations into the air

strike killing of 236 defenceless citizens on 17th January 2017 in

Borno State, Northeast Nigeria. We reject any form of “internal

investigation” by the Federal Government of Nigeria led by Retired

Major Gen Muhammadu Buhari or any of its military or civilian

agencies. We consider such investigation, if any, as a clear case of

“being a judge in its own case”. Besides, the present Federal

Government of Nigeria grossly lacks moral standing to conduct any form

of investigation and if it is truly concerned over the wilful mass

murder; then it must sack as a matter of uttermost immidiacy the

Chiefs of Air Staff, Defence Staff, Army Staff, the National Security

Adviser, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Defence.

We specifically call on the United Nations Secretary General and the

Security Council to rise to the occasion by competently exercising

their mandates in Article 24 of the Chapter Five of the United Nations

by ordering for extensive investigations into the wilful mass murder.

The authorities of the International Committee of the Red Cross and

the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are also called upon

to carry out similar extensive investigations into the mass murder

including the killing of scores of their aid workers. Nigerians also

want to know the age bracket, gender, ethnic and religious identities

of the slain defenceless citizens.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety)

Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Email: [email protected]
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq.
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348180771506

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