Hundreds of Nigerian children, who escaped from Boko Haram captivity in the North-East, are being tortured by the military, Amnesty International (AI) alleged in a report to commemorate Children’s Day on Wednesday.
In a 91-page report, titled ‘We dried our tears’, AI bemoaned the toll of Boko Haram war on children, saying that the military’s detention and torture have compounded the their woes
These children end up being displaced and are with no access to education, the report said.
AI said in the report, “At worst, they are arbitrarily detained for years in military barracks, in conditions amounting to torture or other ill-treatment.
“The UN told Amnesty International it has verified the release of 2,879 children from military detention since 2015, although it previously cited a higher figure of children detained between 2013 and 2019. These statistics are likely to be a vast underestimate, and the UN has said its access to military detention is restricted so it cannot provide the actual number of children detained in the context of the conflict.
“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.
“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. Alleged Boko Haram members and supporters are transferred and held, often for months or years, in squalid conditions in detention centres including Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri and the Kainji military base in Niger state.
“Every former detainee interviewed offered consistent, highly specific descriptions of the conditions: extreme overcrowding; a 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.”
AI said even after mass releases in late 2019 and early 2020 many children were still being held under such conditions. It added that at least 10,000 people, including many children, have died in detention during the conflict.
AI urged the Nigeria government to urgently address the matter or risk creating a lost generation.
The Nigerian military authorities are yet to react to the allegation, as at the time of filing this report.