Nigeria’s army is reviewing the courts-martial of more than 600 soldiers and officers, including dozens condemned to death for allegedly deserting the battle against Islamic extremists, according to an order received by The Associated Press on Sunday.
The review comes three months after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has vowed to crush the Boko Haram Islamic uprising which has spilled across Nigeria’s borders.
An order signed by army administrator Maj. Gen. A. B. Abubakar and dated July 31 requires all accused and condemned soldiers to appear in northern Kaduna city before a committee sitting Aug. 7 to Aug. 24 “to screen and assess all disciplinary cases arising from erstwhile Op Zaman Lafiya” against Boko Haram.
Seventy-two soldiers were condemned to death by three courts-martial last year for alleged cowardice, mutiny, aiding the enemy and other charges. Another 579 are before ongoing courts-martial.
Human rights lawyer Femi Falana has called the trials “a travesty” held in secret because the soldiers’ evidence is a condemnation of Nigeria’s military establishment — indicating corrupt officers often divert money meant for salaries and arms.