The Amnesty International has condemned the Nigerian government’s proscription of the Shiite movement in Nigeria as a suppression of freedom of religion and association.
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria, led by Ibraheem el-Zakzaky, was categorised as a terrorist group last week. The classification followed the fatal shooting of a police chief during a protest of Shiites on July 22 in Abuja.
Although federal authorities blamed the Shiite protesters for the officer’s death, the movement rejected the allegations. No evidence has been made public about who was responsible for the casualties recorded at the protest, which included a reporter and more than a dozen Shiites.
The IMN members have held regular protests since Nigerian soldiers invaded their religious centres in Zaria in 2015, killing hundreds in a two-day onslaught. Mr El-Zakzaky was also wounded during the attack and taken away by security forces.
Following government’s failure to release Mr El-Zakzaky despite a court order, IMN members vowed to hold almost daily protests for their leader’s release, many of which turned violent and left additional members killed by security forces.
On Tuesday, Nigeria’s police chief, Muhammad Adamu, said IMN members would be treated as terrorists if they embark on further protests in the wake of the proscription.
“The proscription of IMN is a deliberate attempt to divert attention from crucial issues including; justice for the massacre of over 350 in Zaria in December 2015 as well many other IMN supporters killed by security agencies over the years,” Amnesty Nigeria spokesperson, Isa Sanusi, said in a statement to newsmen Monday night.
“Many members of IMN have been missing since 2015; their families and relatives a yet to know their fate and their search for justice has been largely ignored by Nigerian authorities,” the statement added.
“Despite federal high court order of December 2016 Nigerian authorities have continued to keep Ibraheem El-Zakzaky in unlawful detention and his bail application perpetually delayed, despite repeated concerns over the deterioration of his health.
“The fact that authorities have not indicated any attempt to investigate and ensure justice in all incidences involving IMN clearly shows a government resolve to deprive them of their fundamental human rights.
“We insist that Nigerian authorities ensure justice in all cases involving all Nigerians, including IMN,” the statement added.
The Buhari administration has argued the proscription did not violate the Constitution but only aimed at curbing the excesses of alleged violent elements amongst IMN members.