Boko Haram: Over 1,000 civilians killed since January – Human Rights Watch

FILE PHOTO: Boko Haram

Attacks by the Islamist armed group, Boko Haram, killed more than 1,000 civilians in 2015, based on witness accounts and an analysis of media reports, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

Boko Haram fighters have deliberately attacked villages and committed mass killings and abductions as their attacks have spread from northeast Nigeria into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger since February.

Human Rights Watch interviews in late January with people who fled Yobe, Adamawa, and Borno states in northeastern Nigeria revealed horrific levels of brutality. Since mid-2014, Boko Haram fighters have seized control of scores of towns and villages covering 17 local government areas in these northeastern states, some of which were recaptured by Nigerian and Chadian forces in March 2015.

Many of those towns have been reclaimed recently by the armies of Nigeria and neighbouring countries.

“Each week that passes we learn of more brutal Boko Haram abuses against civilians,” said Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Nigerian government needs to make protecting civilians a priority in military operations against Boko Haram.”

The findings underscore the human toll of the conflict between Boko Haram and forces from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency says that nearly one million people have been forced to flee since the Islamist rebel group began its violent uprising in July 2009.

During 2014, Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 3,750 civilians died during Boko Haram attacks in these areas. Attacks in the first quarter of 2015 have increased compared to the same period in 2014, including seven suicide bombings allegedly using women and children.

The group also abducted hundreds of women and girls many of whom were subjected to forced conversion, forced marriage, rape, and other abuse. Scores of young men and boys were forced to join Boko Haram’s ranks or face death, according to Human Rights Watch research. Hundreds of thousands of residents were forced to flee the area, either because Boko Haram fighters ordered them to leave or out of fear for their lives.

Displaced people told Human Rights Watch they had fled with only the clothes on their backs after witnessing killings and the burning of their homes and communities by Boko Haram, and in one case by Nigerian security forces.

“As bombs thrown up by Boko Haram started exploding around us on the hills, I saw body parts scatter in different directions,” one witness of attacks in the Gwoza hills in Borno State told Human Rights Watch in late January. “Those already weakened by starvation and thirst coughed repeatedly from the smoke of the explosions until they passed out… I escaped at night.”

Displaced people also described targeted burning of schools by Boko Haram, and a few instances in which government forces took over schools. Deliberate attacks on schools and other civilian structures not being used for military purposes are war crimes. Attacks on schools by Boko Haram, displacement as a result of attacks on villages, and the use of schools by Nigerian army soldiers not only damage schools but interfere with access to education for thousands of children in the northeast.

According to Human Rights Watch research, Nigerian security forces failed to take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population in their military operations against Boko Haram.

In December, Nigerian security forces attacked and burned down the village of Mundu near a Boko Haram base in Bauchi State, witnesses told Human Rights Watch, leaving 5 civilians dead and 70 families homeless. Villagers told Human Rights Watch that Boko Haram was not present in the village when it was attacked.

“The soldiers were shouting in what sounded like English, which most of us did not understand,” the village leader told Human Rights Watch. “We all began running when the soldiers started shooting and setting fire to our homes and other buildings. We returned two days later to find five bodies.” The dead included an 80-year-old blind man burned in his home, a homeless woman with mental disabilities, two visitors attending a wedding in the village, and a 20-year-old man, all of whom were shot.

Army authorities in Abuja said they were unaware of the incident when presented with Human Rights Watch’s findings on March 11, but said they had ordered military police to investigate the claims.

According to media reports, between September and March, Nigerian military authorities charged and tried 307 soldiers who had been on operations in the north for “cowardice,” mutiny, and other military offenses, sentencing 70 of them to death. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. No military personnel have faced prosecution for human rights abuses against civilians in the northeast.

“Civilians in the northeast desperately need protection from Boko Haram attacks and they should never be targeted by the very soldiers who are supposed to be defending them,” Segun said. “The military’s decision to investigate the alleged violations in Mundu is an important first step toward ensuring accountability and compensation for the victims.”

In January, the African Union (AU) endorsed a multinational task force comprising of troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger to fight Boko Haram after the insurgents increased cross border attacks into Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. The action followed attacks on numerous villages and towns in northeastern Nigeria.

The AU is seeking a United Nations Security Council resolution to endorse the task force. Since early March, Nigerian security forces aided by forces from Cameroon, Chad, and Niger have dislodged Boko Haram from some areas of Nigeria’s northeast.

The situation in Nigeria is under preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor. Preliminary examination may or may not lead to the opening of an ICC investigation. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on February 2, 2015, warned that persons inciting or engaging in acts of violence in Nigeria within the ICC’s jurisdiction are liable to prosecution by Nigerian Courts or the ICC. The ICC is a court of last resort, which intervenes only when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute serious crimes violating international law.

Nigerian authorities should ensure that the December 6 attack on Mundu is effectively investigated and that any military personnel, including commanders, responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes are held to account. War crimes by Boko Haram should be properly investigated and the perpetrators held to account in fair trials, Human Rights Watch said.

“The increased military effort has not made the situation for civilians in northeastern Nigeria any less desperate,” Segun said. “Without a stronger effort to protect civilians and accountability for abuses, the situation can only get worse.”


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  • Omo Akinkanju

    these human right people should please go and sleep. We all know who they and Premium times are working for. They are largely in complicity in this fight against terrorism than what they report. Am sure they are heavily benefiting from this Boko Haram attack, hence their fake reports on the death of civilians. They always want to create a chaotic environment and also make people believe Boko Haram is gaining ground against the govt. Their days are numbered for sure.

    • burning spear

      THEY ARE AGENTS OF APC————

    • Moe

      Of course Premium Times is CLEARLY in the pocket of APC.

      Why else will they allow you to voice your moronic opinions in support of PDP on their site without any hindrance.

      • Otile

        Omo sounds intelligent and discerning to me. Don’t insult him, if you don’t agree with him, that is your own opinion.

  • Anita Ekanem

    My predictions & prayers for continent Nigeria after Saturday elections

    SS = President Goodluck Jonathan
    SE = President Chukwuma Soludo
    NW = President Mohammed/Mohammadu Buhari
    NE = President Ndume
    NC = President Jonah Jang
    SW = President Bola Tinubu

    Dear God, may it be so forever and ever. AMEN!

    • burning spear

      Amaen and Aemn and amen————————-separation is the only answer instead of the coup being planned by Obj—-buhari and IBB

    • Moe

      A nonsensical prayer that can only be attributed to a nonsensical mind!
      Asking the almighty to go against him/herself is idiotic at best.

      • Otile

        Don’t insult my sister. Her prayer is perfect. Join me to say Amen to her prayer.

  • tundemash

    Because the phsycopath and deranged Dumbo decided to wait till a week to the February 14th election before acting!
    We will never know how many lives could have been saved if only Dumbo had acted 6 years ago and declare his 6 weeks war on Boko Haram then instead of waiting till the eve of his impending defeat in election !

    • burning spear

      Buhari has asked the Federal Government to stop the clampdown of Boko Haram insurgents, saying Niger Delta Militants were never killed or properties belonging to them destroyed.

      Buhari who spoke on Sunday on a Liberty Radio programme, Guest of the Week monitored said accused the government of killing and destroying houses belonging to Boko Haram members while the Niger Delta militants get special treatment.

      The former dictator said that unlike the special treatment given to the Niger Delta militants by the federal government, the Boko Haram members were being killed and their houses demolished by government.

      While accusing President Jonathan of failing from the beginning to address the security situation in the country, Buhari said he has never been in support of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa state.

      According to Buhari “what is responsible for the security situation in the country is caused by the activities of Niger Delta militants. Every Nigerian that is familiar with what is happening knows this. The Niger Delta militants started it all. what a shame—is this the type of being that we should now hand over our destiny to in Nigeria—-a quota system general?

    • Otile

      Abubakar tundemash, at best this is a temporary defeat of Boko Haram. I can bet you in the name of Imam Buhari that Boko Haram will come back and recapture their territories taken by the Federal troops. The only remedy is to let them take their territories. You and I know that the sharia states don’t belong to us, the states belong to them.

      • tundemash

        Yawn !
        Another phsycopath on the loose !

        • Otile

          As a good Muslim man you should be fighting to keep your territories. You should not surrender your sharia states to infidels, that is unIslamic.

          • tundemash

            Welcome Home Party is ongoing at Otuoke.

  • halima

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  • burning spear

    Buhari has asked the Federal Government to stop the clampdown of Boko Haram insurgents, saying Niger Delta Militants were never killed or properties belonging to them destroyed.

    Buhari who spoke on Sunday on a Liberty Radio programme, Guest of the Week monitored said accused the government of killing and destroying houses belonging to Boko Haram members while the Niger Delta militants get special treatment.

    The former dictator said that unlike the special treatment given to the Niger Delta militants by the federal government, the Boko Haram members were being killed and their houses demolished by government.

    While accusing President Jonathan of failing from the beginning to address the security situation in the country, Buhari said he has never been in support of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa state.

    According to Buhari “what is responsible for the security situation in the country is caused by the activities of Niger Delta militants. Every Nigerian that is familiar with what is happening knows this. The Niger Delta militants started it all.

    • Ha

      Spear you will burn alone God willing, Amen.

    • Moe

      …and your point is??

      • burning spear

        He is an agent of boko haram as a fulani—that is why he does not want the FGN is to get rid of them————

  • Otile

    There is no need counting the number of people slaughtered by Boko Haram. The Northerners born the boko fighters with their own dicks. They feed them, love them, and know their whereabouts. They are the only ones who can stop the activities of their people.

    • Moe

      …by your own reasoning, this is the perfect justification why Jonathan MUST vacate the office and let the “only ones who can stop the activities of their people” into power.

      • Otile

        You don’t have to assume power to stop your people from decimating themselves. The slaughter up there is self-inflicted wound. We wish you people can live in peace. Your people have been ruling for donkey years, but no progress, what else do you want?

  • grace folarin

    Our troops re in the last area occupied by the terrorists and very soon BH will become a thing of the past. much thanx go to the GEJ admin. who neither slept or rested on the issue of insecurity in the country. Kudos to our troops and may the victory come to us as soon as possible. #GEJ4NAIJA

  • Moe

    “much thanx go to the GEJ admin. who neither slept or rested on the issue of insecurity in the country” !!!

    Thank you very much for your analysis. If you were a ‘true’ Nigerian voicing a sincere opinion, you would not have said what you said above. You do understand that GEJ’s ‘non-sleeping’ nor ‘resting’ manner of tackling the security situation in Nigeria resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Nigerians, right?

    I do not believe in Juju, magic, or curses but there is nature…and nature has a way of balancing and re-balancing itself. Call it Karma if you want, just pray it does not re-balance itself at your expense.

    When you say or do something that draws the ill-will of so many people at your being, there normally is an effect. It may be psychological, mental, physical, or any other thing your mind can cook up. The only thing it is not is “non- existent”.
    Please be careful. Just because there is a keyboard in front of you does not mean you must type something.

  • Ken Kachi

    It is better late than never.I am sure if president Jonathan had quickly ordered the mass killings of the Boko Haram members,the APC members would have indicted him of genocide and probably petition him to the international court.It was quite a pity that many souls were lost during the activities of the Boko Haram sect.If the northern leaders had promoted education in the north,I am sure that their sons and daughters would not have been involved in this devilish and inhumane act.The northern leaders frustrated education so that the youths will be in absolute blindness and a perpetual slave to them but the product was the terrorist. Finally I am glad that God in his infinite mercies granted president Jonathan and our gallant military the power to encapsulate the situation.God bless Nigeria

  • princegab

    Beautifully written, good job. Thanks for your concern. The biggest obstacle is the fact that conservative northern political elites are embezzlers and mismanagers. These guys are heartless who do not care a dime for their poor masses. They impoverish them in the 1st place, the termites they are, will rather team up with foreigners and eat up all the fund for the development of NE. The governors of the affected areas are sponsors of boko haram. SOLUTION: emergency rule with CEO appointed form other regions to manage the afair of NE together with the army till 2019 when the administration of NE would be handed over to newly elected officials.