The Executive Secretary (ES) of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, said on Tuesday that in the face of conflicts the Nigerian Military had been actively engaged.
Ojukwu said this in Abuja in his welcome address at the opening ceremony of a four-day advanced training on human rights for Nigerian Army officers by the human rights institute.
The address was delivered by Mr Benedict Agu, Head, Monitoring department of the commission, on behalf of the ES.
According Ojukwu, the training became necessary due to the regular involvement of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in the civil space in Nigeria.
“In the face of the periodic conflicts in some parts of Nigeria and insurgency in the North Eastern states, the Nigerian Military has been actively engaged in field operations.
“The commission is under obligation to draw the attention of the military to the fact that international human rights law is applicable in the operations as well as laws of war or international humanitarian law (IHL),” he said.
Ojukwu further said that those operations fell within non-international armed conflict wherein the principles of humanity, military necessity, proportionality and distinction must apply.
He added that such regular involvement of the military among civilian populations threw up various human rights challenges.
He stressed that the involvement was not limited to scaling up security during, quelling widespread conflicts and agitation in the Niger Delta, counter insurgency operations among others.
“These require application of international human rights standards and international humanitarian law principles.
“Therefore, mainstreaming these as well as civilian protection in military operations becomes imperative,” he said.
He said among others that the training was to improve the knowledge of the officers on human rights standards and practices.
Also, to equip them with the knowledge and skill that would keep their operations within acceptable human rights norms and practice as well as humanitarian principles.
In his goodwill message, Mr Eloi Fillion, head of delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross, said that he was aware of the many things the Nigerian Army was doing to improve on their rules of engagement.
Fillion said that with the help of the National Human Rights Commission the Armed forces had created human rights desk among other efforts geared towards improving the rules of engagement.
“The importance of the laws of engagement can not be over estimated, the ability to translate the applicable international and domestic rules into good behaviour on the ground is required,” he said.
He emphasised that there must be observance of the rules of engagement in each operation in line with the laws.
According to him, one of the challenges comes from the fact that the Nigerian Army is conducting operations in a broad range of context.
“This context is the operational reality and logic, in addition, they are also regulated by bodies of laws.
“The compliance of the laws can amount to violation under human rights; human rights legal force could only be used in self defence over defence of others,” he said.
He, therefore, called on every officer to be aware “in which context the operation is taking place and which body of law is to be applied”. (NAN )