SHAFAQNA – Lawyers for the detained leader of Nigeria’s Islamic Movement (IMN) and his spouse have filed an application to the country’s High Court in a bid to secure their immediate release.
The applications, which were submitted yesterday to the court in the Nigerian capital Abuja, seek declarations that Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat have seen their constitutional and legal rights violated both during and after the massacre of IMN supporters last December.
According to eye-witnesses thousands of soldiers unleashed a three-day orgy of violence on members of the IMN on December 12 last year in the northern city of Zaria. At least 1000 civilians were killed in the attacks which the army falsely accused the IMN of starting by trying to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, who was allegedly passing through the vicinity of the IMN’s headquarters.
The army attack came as the IMN prepared to hold flag changing ceremony to mark the beginning of the Islamic month of RabiuAwwal, the birth month of the Holy Prophet Muhammad at its headquarters in Hussainiyya Baqiyatullah. It is believed that soldiers used this gathering as a pretext to try and fatally weaken the IMN by crippling its leadership and demolishing its religious buildings and symbols. A similar military assault in July 2014 during an annual procession marking the occupation of Palestine saw over 30 people killed.
Although neither Zakzaky or Hajia Zeenat were anywhere near the alleged incident the pair saw soldiers attack their family home, burning it to the ground. Sheikh Zakzaky was shot in his right leg and left arm while his wife was shot in her thigh and stomach. Sheikh Zakzaky now walks with a limp and has suffered what is believed to be permanent damage to one eye and lost all motor functions in his left hand.
Among the respondents named in the applications are the Department for State Security (DSS), the police, Kaduna state government, the Nigerian army and the Attorney General of Nigeria.
The application asks the court to declare as illegal and unconstitutional the shooting dead in cold blood of three of the pair’s teenage sons during the army’s attack.
It also seeks a declaration that the detention of the pair at Kaduna and Abuja, their maltreatment, and denial access to family members and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) since December 14, 2015 is illegal and unconstitutional as it violates their fundamental rights to personal liberty and association.
Neither Zakzaky or Hajia Zeenat have been charged with any crimes. Yet both have been held without charge and without access to proper medical attention for over three months. Moreover, rather than prosecute the officials and soldiers responsible for the massacre the Kaduna state government has gone after IMN members who survived the brutal army onslaught charging some 200 of them with offences including culpable homicide.
Lawyers repesenting the pair said they intended to press their case forcefully before the Federal High Court to ensure that the ‘tyranny’ by the Military and the Department of State Services is not allowed to continue.
“There is no law that we know of that justifies the killing of innocent civilians or the harassment, arrest and detention of persons living within the confines of the Nigerian State without their being told the basis for their arrest and detention or their being allowed access to their counsel.”
IHRC has referred the events in Zaria to the International Criminal Court asking it to open a preliminary war crimes investigation into the December 2015 massacre.