A Nigerian court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, the jailed leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), against the country’s military over its human rights violations.
The Federal High Court in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna on Friday rejected the suit by the prominent Shia cleric, who was seeking 5.6 million dollars in damages over the 2015 attacks by army troopers that led to the killing of some 350 of his followers in the northern city of Zaria, including his three children.
Zakzaky was himself brutally injured, and his house was reportedly destroyed by the Nigerian army in the attack. He has been in custody ever since.
A justice said the lawsuit was rejected for “abuse of court processes” as it had been determined earlier by another court in the capital, Abuja.
Zakzaky’s lawyer, Haruna Magashi, however, argued that the two cases were fundamentally different and the latest judgment was being reviewed before deciding whether to appeal.
“The case before the Abuja federal high court pertains to illegal detention without trial of my client by the DSS (Department of State Services),” he said. “This particular one is about enforcement of human rights, which by law can only be filed at a court within whose jurisdiction the crime was committed.”
The IMF leader and his wife have spent nearly 18 months in custody since the clashes on December 14, 2015. An Abuja court denounced the detention of Zakzaky and his followers as illegal and unconstitutional, imposing a 45-day deadline for their release. The Nigerian government appealed the judgment.
Last year, nearly 100 other IMN supporters were killed when Nigerian forces fired live rounds and tear gas at mourners during a peaceful march ahead of the Arba’een mourning rituals, which marks 40 days after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia Imam. Authorities also destroyed a number of buildings belonging to the IMN.
In December 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the massacre of the Shias and the Nigerian forces, whom it held responsible for the December 2015 attacks.
In April 2016, the UK-based rights group Amnesty International also published evidence revealing how the Nigerian military had burned people alive, razed buildings, and secretly dumped victims’ bodies in mass graves in the December 2015 deadly assaults.