Mass terror arrests in Nigeria raise human rights concern

Nigeria | In the war on Boko Haram, many non-terrorists face lengthy detention
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 7/20/16, 11:02 am

The Nigerian army has released 249 Boko Haram suspects after receiving clearance from the Joint Interrogation Committee in Maiduguri, Borno state, the army confirmed Monday. Security officials in the region continue to struggle to balance protecting human rights with combating Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency.

Army spokesman Col. Sani Usman said the detainees included 169 men, 46 women, and 34 children. The suspects come from several states across Nigeria, and two others from neighboring Cameroon.

“The released persons were handed over to Borno state government,” Usman said. “The foreigners were, however, handed over to the Borno state command of the Nigerian Immigration Service.”

Detainees receive $10 compensation from the government following their varying lengths of arrest. The amount is just enough for most to cover the cost of their transportation home.

Martin Ewi, a Boko Haram expert with the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, explained the army typically arrests everyone present when it raids Boko Haram hideouts. The security officials then conduct follow-up investigations to confirm whether the detainees have ties to the insurgent group. The $10 serves as a sort of peace offering, Ewi said. But drawing the line between protecting human rights and combating terrorism goes beyond Nigeria.

“It’s a general tension we observe in times of counterterrorism, where human rights are violated by security officials because they’re pursuing terrorists and trying to protect people,” he said.

In February, the army released another 275 people after prolonged detention. And in December, security officials released Abubakar Sadiq, who had been on a list of 100 wanted Boko Haram terrorists. The army called it a case of mistaken identity and released “the erroneously arrested person” to his family.

Amnesty International on Thursday accused Cameroonian officials of maltreating and illegally detaining Boko Haram suspects. Boko Haram’s insurgency began in Nigeria’s Borno state and has since spread to other regions and neighboring countries. The Nigerian Army and multinational joint forces have engaged in a defensive campaign against Boko Haram, seizing back territories and rescuing hostages.

Usman said on Sunday, the army had cleared out a Boko Haram hideout and caught a suspect with an improvised explosive device concealed in a blue stabilizer casing.

“He was dispossessed of the explosives while the Nigerian Police Explosive Ordinance Devices expert safely detonated it,” Usman said. “The suicide bomber is currently being interrogated.”

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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