Nigeria: President urged to protect annual Al-Quds rally

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SHAFAQNA – IHRC has written to the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari to raise concerns about information it has received that the Nigerian Army will be out in force at the annual Al Quds Day rally on Friday 1 July 2016.

The army’s presence is of grave concern since the rally is led by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), members of whom have been repeatedly targeted by the armed forces. Over three days in December 2015 more than 1000 people were killed as well as property and religious spaces destroyed by the armed forces in Zaria. Leading members of the movement were shot and imprisoned without charge.

The assault over two days in the northern Nigerian city left a trail of bloodshed and destruction including the shooting of the movement’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat. Both remain in the custody of the Nigerian intelligence services, detained without charge.

Earlier this year IHRC called on the International Criminal Court to open a preliminary enquiry into the events in Zaria last year in which soldiers attacked the Islamic Movement of Nigeria’s (IMN) supporters, symbols and property.

There is a history of attacks against IMN, especially during the Al Quds Day rally. In 2014 soldiers attacked the al-Quds Day procession in Zaria, Kaduna State, killing 32. In 2009 four people were killed and several injured when police opened fire on civilians, also in Zaria.

Following the December 2015 attacks against IMN, the state government in Kaduna set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) but human rights organisations, including IHRC, believe it is not sufficiently independent and impartial to be able to hold those responsible to account, nor is there any reasonable prospect of any prosecutions. This lack of accountability has the potential to create an environment where such horrific deaths are acceptable, and that IMN are easy targets. This means that Al Quds Day on Friday poses multiple risks, particularly with the perpetrators of the crimes – the Army – in attendance.

The letter states: “IHRC calls on you (the president) to prohibit the Army’s presence at the demonstration and ensure the protection of IMN members who have already suffered immensely. It is imperative to send a strong message to ensure that peaceful and vulnerable members of Nigerian society can demonstrate support for Palestine uninhibited.”

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