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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Hidden Cost Of Anti-terrorism Operations


The global civil rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has just released a report stating that it had gathered gruesome video footage, images and testimonies that served as evidence of war crimes in the forms of extrajudicial killings and other grave human rights violations. These activities were said to have been carried out by the Nigerian military deployed in the north-east against the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

These are strong allegations worthy of the military high commands appropriate review. The involvement of the armed forces in internal security operations is auxiliary to their fundamental responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of the nation. So, each time the military is called upon to take up such additional responsibilities, there are concerns in some quarters that they enjoy excessively full privilege to use brute force on both the antagonists and innocent citizens without being called to order by the government or restrained by the Defence Headquarters.
Almost everywhere in the world where crises warrant military intervention, more often than not, there are complaints of disrespect for human rights and international humanitarian law norms. Local and international rights groups, like Amnesty International, often do cite and release what to them are compelling evidence proving that military personnel violate rules of engagement in the course of their peace-giving and peace-keeping operations.
We agree with Salil Shetty, Amnesty Internationals secretary-general, that, A state of emergency must not give way to a state of lawlessness. However, it should be noted that the situation in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states (and, indeed, some other parts of the country) has made military intervention absolutely necessary, without which civil authorities could be severely threatened.
Even as we observe that attacks by Boko Haram have intensified in recent months, we are not unmindful of the essence of preserving human dignity in the face of these challenges. To that extent, too, there might be collateral damage. But to describe the military as machinery for state torture would be unfair and preposterous. It runs counter to the urgent need to end insurgency at the earliest possible time. The sects activities have escalated into more daring and bloody encounters. Innocent civilians, whose lives are supposed to be protected, have been helpless victims of several violent activities carried out by terrorists. The military too has to intensify its action.
Yet, military intervention in internal conflicts comes with a price. This is why military deployment to aid civil authority has always been a measure of last resort. The friction that ensues in trying to align necessary military actions with protecting the rights of ordinary people in the affected areas is what often leads to the heavy scrutiny all internal security operations are exposed to, in what ideally should be the domain of civil authority.
While military personnel deployed to counter insurgencies are duty-bound to understand that there are basic international humanitarian principles expected to be respected, we all should be aware that, in pursuit of lasting peace in troubled territories, something has to give. Cooperation, support and collective responsibility are crucial in upholding lawfulness during security operations.
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