Ozekhome condemns reprisal attack by military in Benue

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“Killing of soldiers by communities for whatever reason is bad and condemnable. Those soldiers are themselves family men and women who also have a right to live whilst defending their country.”

These are the exact words of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and constitutional rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, while condemning the reported reprisal attacks by the Nigerian Army on some communities in Benue State following the brutal killing of 11 soldiers by some bandits.

He stated the army was most unprofessional and insensitive in bombarding many communities with mortal firepower because of the offence allegedly committed by some bandits. He noted however that there can be no justification for the killing of the soldiers but that the appropriate thing for the army to do in the circumstance is to fish out the culprits and prosecute them appropriately.

He said: “Killing of soldiers by communities for whatever reason is bad and condemnable. Those soldiers are themselves family men and women who also have a right to live whilst defending their country. However, reprisals by the army with deadlier weapons against whole villages are even more condemnable. “Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two things are wrong here. First, there can be no commission of murder by proxy. Fish out the murderers who attacked the army and bring them to justice through our criminal justice system.

The army has no right or justification to attack the whole communities because of the sins of a few, through maiming, killings, arson, destruction of lives and property as well as burning of places of worship and residential homes. “Two, the Geneva Convention which is applicable to Nigeria condemns use of disproportionate force over weaker opponents in warfare.

And there was no declared warfare in Benue state. Houses were raised while defenceless and innocent civilians were mauled down in serial military operations in many villages in Gwer and Konshisha LGAs from 8th April, 2021, with tanks, artillery, mortal, and air fire power.

“Why not deploy these to Boko Haram, kidnappers and armed bandits terrorising us as a nation? Collective punishment and use of disproportionate force are recognised as war crimes. There can never be vicarious liability for crimes as the army did against whole communities, most of whom knew nothing about the alleged killing of the soldiers.

“Under the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations, the African Charter on Human Rights and the EU Convention, collective punishment is not only abhorred, but is punishable, even during armed conflicts, let alone a civilian insurrection. The army was therefore most unprofessional and insensate in bombarding whole communities with mortal firepower because of the alleged offence of a few. I totally condemn it”.

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