Nigerian soldiers tortured, killed thousands, report says
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nigeria’s military was responsible for the deaths of more than 8,000 people in its battle against Boko Haram militants, Amnesty International charged Wednesday in a report.
About 1,200 people have fallen victim to extrajudicial executions since February 2012, and about 7,000 have died of mistreatment in detention since March 2011, according to the report.
Some starved to death. Others died of thirst or suffocated to death in poorly ventilated cells jammed with prisoners. And some died when soldiers fumigated the cells with mosquito poison, the report said.
Amnesty called for the investigation of senior commanders for possible war crimes, including murder, torture and enforced disappearances.
“The hundreds 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,” Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty said in a statement Wednesday.
The report was the product of a four-year investigation involving hundreds of leaked military documents and interviews with more than 400 witnesses, victims, doctors, senior military personnel and others, Amnesty said.
According to the report, “senior officials of the Nigerian military had full knowledge of the arbitrary detentions and high rates of deaths and failure to take action to stop these human rights violations.”
Since 2009, at least 20,000 men and boys, some as young as 9, have been arrested in the northeast on suspicion of being Boko Haram members, often swept up randomly in raids, without adequate investigation or evidence against them, according to Amnesty.
A senior military official gave Amnesty a list of 683 detainees who had died at what the report termed the most notorious detention facility, the Giwa barracks in Maiduguri, over a fivemonth period beginning in October 2012. The official estimated that close to 5,000 people had died there since the beginning of 2013.
Amnesty said it had obtained 90 videos showing members of the security forces and allied militiamen committing abuses. The report contained images of Nigerian soldiers beating men with large sticks, or walking on the backs of prisoners lying on their stomachs.