Nigerian military subjecting children to unlawful detention, Amnesty Int’l alleges

Posted by News Express | 27 May 2020 | 882 times

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Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian military of subjecting children in the northeast, a zone ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency, to unlawful detention and torture.

 The rights group stated this in a statement to launch a new report, “‘We dried our tears’: Addressing the toll on children of Northeast Nigeria’s conflict”.

The 91-page report, the group said, was based on interviews conducted between November 2019 and April 2020 with more than 230 people affected by the conflict, including 119 who were children when they suffered serious crimes by Boko Haram, the Nigerian military, or both.

These included 48 children held in military detention for months or years, as well as 22 adults who had been detained with children

It alleged the maltreatment by the military, charged with the responsibility of protecting the children from Borno and Adamawa states, had compounded their suffering.

It also reveals how international donors have bankrolled a flawed programme that claims to reintegrate former alleged fighters, but which overwhelmingly amounts to unlawful detention of children and adults.

“The past decade of bitter conflict between Nigeria’s military and Boko Haram has been an assault on childhood itself in Northeast Nigeria. The Nigerian authorities risk creating a lost generation unless they urgently address how the war has targeted and traumatized thousands of children,” the statement qouted Joanne Mariner, Acting Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International, as saying.

Amnesty International said children in areas under Boko Haram control had been subjected to torture and forced to watch public executions and other brutal punishments.

The report quoted a 17-year-old girl who narrated her life in the Sambisa forest after she escaped Boko Haram captivity for four years: “[My] wicked ‘husband’ always beat me… My daily activities included praying, cooking if there was food, [and] going for Quranic lessons. No movement was allowed, and no visiting friends. It was a terrible experience, and I witnessed different punishments, from shooting to stoning to lashing.”

“She, and most other former child “wives” interviewed – including some who returned with children born during captivity – had received little or no assistance in returning to school, starting livelihoods, or accessing psychosocial support,” Amnesty International said.

The report alleged that children who escaped Boko Haram territory were arbitrarily detained for years in military barracks, in conditions amounting to torture or other ill-treatment.

“Most such detentions are unlawful; children are never charged or prosecuted for any crime and are denied the rights to access a lawyer, appear before a judge, or communicate with their families. The widespread unlawful detentions may amount to a crime against humanity.”

 The rights group estimated that at least 10,000 people, including many children, have died in detention during the conflict.

Amnesty International alleged that it also documented violations at Operation Safe Corridor, a programme backed by millions of dollars in support from the EU, UK, USA, and other partners.

The military-run detention centre outside Gombe was set up in 2016 with the aim of de-radicalizing and rehabilitating alleged Boko Haram fighters or supporters. It has seen around 270 “graduates” in several batches since.

The rights group said former detainees it interviewed said medical care was sorely lacking.

“Seven detainees died, many, if not all, after receiving inadequate medical care. The Nigerian authorities did not even notify their families – they were informed by released detainees instead.

“A vocational training programme that is part of Safe Corridor may amount to forced labour, since most detainees, if not all, have never been convicted of any crime and make everything from shoes to soap to furniture for no pay,” it said.

“None of the major donors to Safe Corridor would sanction such a system of prolonged and unlawful detention for its own citizens, so why do they do so in Nigeria?” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

“Nigeria’s armed forces must release all children being arbitrarily detained and halt other violations that appear aimed at punishing thousands of children, many of whom were also victims of Boko Haram’s atrocities. A commitment to children’s education and psychosocial recovery could pave a new path for the Northeast.”

When contacted by one of our reporters for a reaction, Coordinator, Defence Media Operation, Major General John Enenche, said he did not know where Amnesty International was getting its information from.

Enenche said he would not react without “facts and figures.” (Text, excluding headline, courtesy Daily Trust)

 

 


Source: News Express

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