The Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, has given a condition for its appearance before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government – the immediate release of its leader, Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky from detention.
Mr. Zakzaky and scores of the Shi’ite movement’s members were arrested after soldiers opened fire on them for daring to block the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, from using the highway in Zaria on December 12, 2015.
A siege by the soldiers over the course of two days would lead to the demolition of the sect’s spiritual headquarters in Zaria and the arrest of El-Zakzaky, who was shot alongside his wife.
About 300 members of the sect are believed to have been killed by soldiers in the attacks, which have been condemned by local and international groups including the Human Rights Watch.
The Nigerian Army had while justifying its use of lethal force, alleged that the youths who blocked the highway were planning to assassinate Gen. Tukur, who was in Zaria on official engagement.
The allegation was vehemently denied by the Shi’ite group, which in turn accused the army of premeditated attacks.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai had on Saturday announced the formation of a 12-member Judicial Commission of Inquiry under the leadership of Justice Mohammed Garba to investigate the circumstances that led to the incident.
However, the IMN in a statement on Sunday by its spokesperson, Ibrahim Musa, said it would only appear before the commission if El-Zakzaky is released unconditionally.
“The Nigerian Government is holding the leader of the Movement incommunicado knowing that he is the custodian of the documents of the Movement and has to give direction to the Movement in the preparation of its Memorandum and the assembling of its witnesses”, the group said.
It also said that apart from releasing its leader, the Nigerian Military and the Nigerian Police must also make a full disclosure of the number of persons in their various detention centres and grant lawyers of the Movement access to all of them.
This, it said, is because the Movement has credible evidence that a large number of its members are still in detention in military facilities and detention centres in Kaduna.
Other conditions given by the Shiites include that “the Nigerian Military and the Nigerian Police must also make full disclosure of the number of persons they took to the various hospitals and the location of the hospitals to enable the lawyers of the Movement have access to them and interview them preparatory to the inauguration of the Commission.
“The Commission of Inquiry must also give full assurance that the members of the Movement that will give evidence will be fully protected.
“The Kaduna State Government and the Kaduna State Police Command must disclose the number of persons it has charged to court and the number of persons it has in prison custody. This is necessary as the Kaduna State Police Command and the Kaduna State Government illegally and in a secret procedure granted detention orders against members of the Movement and herded them to the Kaduna Central Prison without taking any of them before any Magistrate Court. Presently, over 200 members of the Movement are in custody at the Kaduna Central Prison”.
According to the statement, a list of 730 missing persons that were either killed by the Army or are still in military detention facilities has been compiled.
It said those in military detention facilities should be released to them and corpses of those killed should be handed over for proper Islamic burial.
On the composition of the panel, IMN said there are some members that are “clearly neither impartial nor credible having shown open hostility to the movement and its leadership through their utterances, writings or actions in the past.
“Some had even called the government to go for the jugular of the Islamic Movement in the past. The IMN does not see any possibility of fairness and justice from them due to their stance on the Movement and Shia.
“Definitely, their position of arch-enmity with the Movement compromises any fairness from them in this matter. Independent human rights bodies should be included in the commission”, they said.
The movement said the conditions they have given should be fulfilled by Mr. El Rufai to convince the IMN that the state government, which, they said, is also an accomplice to the crime, having ordered the demolition of their property and “deliberately wiped out practical evidences of the army’s brutality on the movement”, is not setting up the enquiry to justify the indictment of the Movement by both the federal and state governments.