Nigerian military caught in war crime allegations

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/05/15, 12:30 pm

Northern Nigeria remains in the state of unrest that began with the onset of Boko Haram in 2009. The Islamic extremist group, whose name means “western education is sin,” abducted women and children, burned down villages, and left families divided.

But a statement released Wednesday by Amnesty International, a London-based human rights group, shows civilians have more than the extremist group to worry about. The organization accused the Nigerian military of engaging in war crimes: “They have arbitrarily arrested at least 20,000 people, mostly young boys and girls. More than 7,000 suspects died in military detention from torture, starvation, disease, or were simply shot.”

Amnesty International said it gathered military documents and conducted interviews with victims and members of the security forces. Amnesty International specifically charged five military officials and four high-level commanders with knowing about the brutality but failing to respond.

“The number of unidentified bodies, the evidence of mass graves, and the harrowing stories of starvation and abuse coming out of the country’s military barracks demand nothing less than an urgent investigation and for those responsible to be brought to justice,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

In March, Human Rights Watch expressed concern over the rising number of civilian deaths. The United States also pulled its support from the Nigerian army due to the allegations of human rights abuses, but the inauguration of new President Muhammadu Buhari reignited the relationship between the two countries. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was present at the inauguration, discussed cooperation against Boko Haram with Buhari.

In addition to its statement, Amnesty International also created a petition to Buhari, asking him to take action. “Your administration has the ability to put an end to these atrocities and provide justice for the victims, drawing a line under the mistakes of the past,” the petition said.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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