Nigeria: Prosecution of Sheikh Zakzaky is a perversion of natural justice

IHRC is appalled by the filing of a civil lawsuit in Nigeria demanding the immediate arrest and prosecution of the leader of the country's Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky along with his wife Zeenat.

The lawsuit has been filed with the federal court in the capital Abuja by Danbaba Gyang, secretary general of the Lawyers Alliance for Defence of Democracy in Nigeria.

Mr Gyang wants the court to determine that the couple incited public unrest by members of the movement during December's violence in Zaria in which at least a thousand of the movement's supporters were killed.

Even by the macabre twists of Nigerian politics IHRC finds the lawsuit perverse in that by all accounts the Sheikh and his family, and supporters of the Islamic Movement, were victims of an unprovoked and apparently pre-planned massacre by the country's military.

Sheikh Zakzaky and Zeenat were both shot, kidnapped and detained without charge by soldiers during the attack of 12-13 December 2015. Photographic evidence suggests that the sheikh was also tortured following his detention. Access to them was denied until a full month later when a friend was allowed to visit them in a house in the capital Abuja. During the attack soldiers targeted the movement and its symbols in a 27-hour orgy of violence.

Sheikh Zakzaky's personal residence in Zaria was destroyed, as was the Hussainiyyah Baqiyatullah which served as the movement's centre. The army also destroyed the home housing the tomb of Sheikh Zakzaky's mother.

Following the attack on the Islamic Movement IHRC also received photographs and testimonies of mass graves where the army is reported to have buried fatalities from the killing spree in Zaria. The Islamic Movement has also accused soldiers involved in last month's bloody attack of raping women and burning the corpses of those it had killed. The Nigerian army has failed to release the bodies of many of the dead for burial.

The lawsuit also calls on the Federal Court to take action against the Inspector General of Police, the Director-General of the DSS (the state security service), the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General for failing to arrest Sheikh Zakzaky and other leaders and members of the movement. IHRC believes their naming is both a cynical attempt by the military, which we firmly believe is the power behind this lawsuit, to create a 'civilian' pretext for the prosecution of Zakzaky and his wife and also an attempt to exert pressure on state officials to act against them.

IHRC also believes that the decision by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the massacre to convene even if Sheikh Zakzaky does not receive access to his lawyers once again highlights the systemic bias that faces any attempt to seek justice. The Sheikh is currently believed to be being held by the Nigerian military in an undisclosed location with no access to legal representatives.

IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: "The lack of due process and independence in the case of Sheikh Zakzaky is staggering. We call on the international community to rise up and challenge this shameful pantomime that passes for due process. These antics are not going to fool anyone".

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