Patrick Leahy – sponsor of the Leahy Law (or Leahy amendment) that prohibits the US Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity – believes that President Muhammadu Buhari’s opinion of the effect of the law on the war against Boko Haram is “misdirected”.
Leaahy said neither he nor the law could be blamed for the atrocities committed by the “murderers and rapists in the Nigerian military”.
“It is well-documented by the State Department and by respected human rights organisations that Nigerian army personnel have, for many years, engaged in a pattern and practice of gross violations of human rights against the Nigerian people and others, including summary executions of prisoners, indiscriminate attacks against civilians, torture, forced disappearances and rape. Rarely have the perpetrators been prosecuted or punished,” he said
“This abusive conduct not only violates the laws of war, it creates fear and loathing among the Nigerian people whose support is necessary to defeat a terrorist group like Boko Haram.
“President Buhari ignores the undisputed fact that most Nigerian army units have been approved, under the Leahy Law, for U.S. training and equipment. Only those particular units against which there is credible evidence of the most heinous crimes are ineligible for U.S. aid. And even those units can again become eligible if the Nigerian Government takes effective steps to bring the responsible individuals to justice.
“I strongly agree with President Buhari about the need to defeat Boko Haram, and I have supported tens of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Nigeria for that purpose. But rather than suggest that the United States is at fault for not funding murderers and rapists in the Nigerian military, he should face up to his own responsibility to effectively counter Boko Haram. He should direct his attention to the Nigerian military, and the Nigerian courts, and clean up the units implicated in such atrocities.”
Speaking at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) on Wednesday, Buhari had lamented that the law “aided and abetted” the campaign of bloodletting of Boko Haram, urging the US government to review it so that it could provide the needed assistance to Nigeria to crush Boko Haram.
“In our efforts at combating the activities of Boko Haram, the new government has sought and obtained the support of not only our neighbours other international friends and partners. Regrettably, the blanket application of the Leahy Law by the United States on the grounds of unproven allegations of human rights violations levelled against our forces has denied us access to appropriate strategic weapons to prosecute the war against the insurgents,” he had said.
“In the face of abduction of innocent school girls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate weapons and technology which they could have had, had the so-called human rights violations not been an obstacle.
“Unwittingly, and I dare say, unintentionally, the application of the Leahy law amendment by the U. S. Government has aided and abetted the Boko Haram terrorist group in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, in raping of women and girls, and in their other heinous crimes. I believe this is not the spirit of the Leahy Laws. I know the American people cannot support any group engaged in these crimes.”
Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, subsequently attempted to harp on the innocence of the president’s comment.