Press Statement on the airstrike of Nigerian Airforce that killed civilians in Zamfara State


1. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), has through its Country Rapporteur on the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Honorable Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, noted with deepest concerns, reports of an airstrike that led to the massacre of civilians in Zamfara State.


2. The African Commission learned from reports reaching it that the airstrike by the Nigerian Air Force on Sunday 18 December 2022, in an operation allegedly meant to chase terrorists, who reportedly invaded Mutumji Community in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State, to our deep regret led to the reported killing of over 64 civilians. The Commission expresses serious concern over the scale of death this incident caused to civilians and expresses its profound condolences to the families and communities to which the deceased belonged. 


3. While the African Commission recognizes the report of apology expressed by the Federal Government of Nigeria in this incident, the nature of the incident and the civilians affected by the incident are such that they necessitate actions that go beyond this important act of apology. It is the view of the African Commission that such and more substantial measures are critical in light of the fact that the Nigerian airforce is sure to engage in airstrikes in the fight against terrorist groups. 


4. The Commission is guided by and reaffirms not only the provisions of the African Charter including the rights enshrined in Articles 4 and 23 but also importantly its Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights while Countering Terrorism in Africa (Principles and Guidelines) adopted on 29 January 2016,  in particular, the responsibility of states to protect the human security of its people; the obligation to address the underlying conditions leading to the emergence and spread of terrorism; and the obligations to Provide Reparation to individuals who have suffered physical or other damage or who have suffered violations of their human rights as a result of an act of terrorism or acts committed in the name of countering terrorism. 


5. The African Commission thus calls on the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: - 

a) To ensure the launching of an independent investigation into the circumstances that led to the targeting in the airstrike of the civilians and the consequences of the attack on civilians beyond the loss of lives of the 64 civilians, with a view to taking the requisite precautionary measures (including in the planning and undertaking such strikes) that ensure that such incidents leading to the killing of civilians are avoided; 

b) To take the necessary measure to hold accountable those who were responsible for planning and executing the operation that failed to avoid such tragedy by design, negligence or omission acted and institute the necessary reforms;
c) To adopt the requisite legal, institutional and administrative measures for the reparation of the victims and their families;

d) To adopt the necessary legal, institutional, policy and administrative measures for ensuring that military operations of this kind in the fight against terrorism comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law norms including the African Commission Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights while Countering Terrorism in Africa (Principles and Guidelines); and 

e) Report back to the Commission on what steps it has taken concerning combating terrorism and these eventful acts that have affected the human right to life.

Issued in Banjul, Republic of the Gambia, 19 December 2022


Hon. Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso
The country rapporteur on the situation of human rights in
the Republic of South Sudan