End Repression of Shia Group in Nigeria: Human Rights Watch
International NGO, Human Rights Watch, called on the Nigerian Government to end the brutal crackdown on Shia Islamic movement. It also urged the government to obey a court ruling that ordered a Shia cleric and Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) leader Ibrahim Zakzaky's release. Zakzaky and his wife are under state detention following clashes between his supporters and soldiers in Zaria in December 2015.
Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky is a Shia Muslim cleric in Nigeria, and head of Nigeria's Islamic Movement. He founded Islamic Movement in the late 1970s and propagated Shia Islam. He was detained several times due to accusations of civil disobedience or recalcitrance under military regimes.
On 12 Dec'15, Zakzaky's followers refused to allow the chief of army staff's convoy to pass through their procession in Zaria. The incident sparked violence that left 350 people, including Zakzaky's sons, dead. Zakzaky was injured, leaving him partly paralyzed and blinded; since then, he remained under state detention. The army reportedly demolished his residence in Zaria and massacred hundreds of his followers.
In Apr'16, Amnesty International accused the Nigerian Army of shooting dead at least 350 Shia Muslims, burying them in mass graves and destroying evidence of the crime. In Jul'16, Nigerian Shiite Muslims accused the army of killing 12 of their members and injuring 40 in a clash in Zaria. On 2 Dec'16, the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the immediate release of Zakzaky.
The High Court rejected the Department of State Services' (DSS) argument that Zakzaky was detained for his own protection. It ordered the government to release Zakzaky within 45 days and instructed the DSS to pay N50 million to Zakzaky and his wife as compensation.
"Nigerian authorities should hold accountable anyone, who has committed crimes against Islamic Movement members, and take immediate steps to comply with a federal court order mandating the release of Zakzaky and his wife."
The international rights watchdog stated its intervention followed a judicial commission's inquiry report, which found that the Nigerian Army used "excessive force" against the members of IMN during the Dec 2015 clashes. Human Rights Watch's senior Nigeria Researcher, Mausi Segun, said the soldiers' involvement in the Zaria incidents and the subsequent actions against IMN raise "major questions about Nigeria's commitment to military reform."
Mausi Segun said the Kaduna State Government's repression of Islamic Movement without holding the attackers responsible "turns justice on its head." The government had banned the IMN in Oct'16 and recently called for Ibrahim Zakzaky's prosecution as the head of the group and its alleged "lawlessness" for the past 30 years. The government has also accused the group of "allegiance to a foreign power."