North-East to lose a generation to Boko Haram, military actions —Amnesty International

Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday came out with a report on Boko Haram and military activities in the North-East, warning that Nigeria could lose a whole generation to the decade-long program in the northeastern part of the country.

A statement from the global peace agency, announcing the 91-page package, quoted Joanne Mariner, its acting Director of Crisis Response as saying: “The past decade of bitter conflict between Nigeria’s military and Boko Haram has been an assault on childhood itself in North-East Nigeria.

“The Nigerian authorities risk creating a lost generation unless they urgently address how the war has targeted and traumatised thousands of children.

“Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked schools and abducted large number of children as soldiers or ‘wives’, among other atrocities.

“The Nigerian military’s treatment of those who escaped such brutality has also been appalling. From mass, unlawful detention under inhumane conditions, to meting out beatings and torture and allowing sexual abuse by adult inmates – it defies belief that children anywhere would be so grievously harmed by the very authorities charged with their protection.”

AI also called on Nigeria to urgently “address its failure to protect and provide education to an entire generation of children in the North-East, a region devastated by years of Boko Haram atrocities and gross violations by the military.”

The report entitled ‘We dried our tears’ was a direct response to the fate of the North-East child and how the military’s alleged widespread unlawful detention and torture had compounded the suffering of children from Borno and Adamawa states, “who faced war crimes and crimes against humanity at the hands of Boko Haram,” the statement added.

The report, according to AI, also “reveals how international donors bankrolled a flawed programme that claims to reintegrate former alleged fighters, which however, overwhelmingly amounts to unlawful detention of children and adults.”

Reporting on person-to-person contacts made in the course of collecting practical data for the report, AI said: “Children have been among those most impacted by Boko Haram’s string of atrocities carried out over large swathes of North-East Nigeria for nearly a decade.

“The armed group’s classic tactics had included attacks on schools, widespread abductions, recruitment and use of child soldiers and forced marriage of girls and young women, which all constitute crimes under international law.

“Children in areas under Boko Haram control have been subjected to torture, including floggings and other beatings, as well as forced to watch public executions and other brutal punishments.”

The global body says those who escaped Boko Haram brutality are not faring well in the hands of the military too.

AI and the Nigerian military have always had a rocky relational.

The agency noted that “children who escaped Boko Haram territory face a raft of violations by the Nigerian authorities, also including crimes under international law. At best, they end up displaced, struggling for survival and with little or no access to education. At worst, they are arbitrarily detained for years in military barracks in conditions amounting to torture or other ill-treatments.

“Almost everyone fleeing Boko Haram territory, including children, is “screened” by the military and Civilian Joint Task Force – a process that, for many, involves torture until the person “confesses” to affiliation with Boko Haram.

“Every former detainee interviewed offered consistent, highly specific descriptions of the conditions – extreme overcrowding; lack of ventilation amid stifling heat; parasites everywhere and urine and faeces on the floor, because of the lack of toilets. Although there have been some improvements in recent years, many former detainees, including children, also faced grossly inadequate access to water, food, and health care.

Speaking on the ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ programme in the midst of the war, Country Director of AI in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said: “None of the major donors to ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ would sanction such a system of prolonged and unlawful detention for its own citizens, so why do they do so in 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 North-East.”

On its findings probing the Safe Corridor, the agency pointed out that “Amnesty International also documented violations at Operation Safe Corridor, a programme backed by millions of dollars in support from the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and other partners. The military-run detention centre outside Gombe was set up in 2016 with the aim of deradicalising and rehabilitating alleged Boko Haram fighters or supporters. It has seen around 270 “graduates” in several batches since.

“Conditions are better at the Safe Corridor site than elsewhere in military detention and former detainees spoke positively about the psychosocial support and adult education there. But most of the men and boys there have not been informed of any legal basis for their detention and still lack access to lawyers or courts to contest it. Their promised six-month stay has in some cases extended to 19 months, during which time they are deprived of liberty and under constant armed guard.

 

 

 

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