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NAF’s bombing of civilians may translate to war crimes – HURIWA

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Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) on Tuesday cautioned the Nigerian Air Force to be wary of committing ‘war crimes’ through accidental and sporadic bombardments of civilians during its many aerial bombardments on terrorist hideouts in Northern Nigeria.

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, demand a probe on the many airstrikes of the Air Force on civilian settlements which has killed many and injured countless persons.

The group referred to NAF’s recent bombardment of a hospital and other healthcare facilities in the Sambisa forest where wounded and sick terrorists and their family members are treated. The bombing, according to news report, was conducted by air component of the Operation Hadin Kai on September 9, 2022.

The Nigerian Air Force has been reported to cause avoidable civilian casualties in its anti-insurgent operations in the last one year due to alleged miscalculations.

Many Nigerians looking to the state for protection have been gruesomely killed by NAF’s alleged indiscriminate and miscalculated airstrikes. For instance, on July 6, 2022, a NAF fighter jet was said to have mistakenly bombed civilians in Kakuna village of Katsina State, killing at least one person and injuring scores of others.

In September 2021, after initial denial, NAF admitted that one of its fighter jets on a mission against terrorists “unfortunately” bombed civilians in Buhari community, in the Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe State.

In August 2021, despite pictorial evidence that a military chopper opened fire on boat passengers carrying foodstuffs while travelling from Port Harcourt to Bonny Island in Rivers State, injuring them in the process, the Defence Headquarters had said those shot were “illegal oil bunkerers”.

In April 2021, over 20 soldiers on ground were allegedly slain in Mainok, Borno State, when a NAF fighter jet responding to attacks on a military camp by Boko Haram insurgents bombed the military camp based on a wrong coordinate.

HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “These apparent excesses of the Nigerian Air Force and sister military agencies must not be swept under the carpet. There are many other undocumented cases like the ones stated above where NAF airstrikes on onslaught against terrorists killed innocent civilians but these cases did not make it to the media.

“The recent bombing of a so-called terrorist health centre in Sambisa forest in Borno State may have added to the growing list of the military’s excesses especially if it emerges that civilian hostages kept by the terrorists were affected. One is therefore praying and wishing that a lot of cautions and circumspection were brought to bear before that reported airstrikes that destroyed what some newspapers described as hospital in Sambisa were made especially given the demands of extreme carefulness as prescribed by the Geneva Convention on war so the Nigerian troops who nevertheless are working strenuously to defend the territorial integrity of our Country and protect the law abiding citizens from the mindless, callous and wicked terrorist attacks by ISWAP, BOKO HARAM, do not dabble into the unnecessary arena of being accused remotely or otherwise of committing war crimes. Some may wonder how the bombing of a health facility even if run by terrorists does not amount to a war crime under Geneva Convention which is why the federal government needs to brief Nigerians on this worrying development which we hope does not dovetail to alleged war crime?

“The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols limit the barbarity of war. They seek protection for people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers).

“The Geneva Conventions frowns upon the “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” which is what we hope the Air Force has not committed in the Sambisa forest because some of those in that health centre were certainly civilians and innocent captives as captured in the trending news stories. This is why the Spokesman of the Defence Headquarters needs to give Nigerians profound assurances that the rules of engagement were followed to its logical conclusion.

“HURIWA demand that the government investigate if truly where was bombed as mentioned in several stories by credible national dailies were actually hospital and then government to offer reasons why that isn’t a war crime so it is clear that Nigeria is waging a JUST WAR.

“Whilst HURIWA do not advocate any form of soft treatment for terrorists and enemies of the State, it is important that the Nigerian Air Force and its sister agencies operate within acceptable global statutes which forbid war crimes and attack on innocent civilians that terrorists use as human shields. We further advocate massive supports by all and sundry in Nigeria to the law based counter Terror War of the Federal Government and wish that Nigeria is quickly returned to the path of lasting peace and tranquility in the shortest possible time this Year.

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