In March 2014, Nigerian soldiers reportedly entered into Giwa Barracks, a notorious detention centre in Maiduguri, and opened fire on several detainees. Hundreds of other detainees were allegedly driven away from the centre to other parts of the city where they were summarily executed.
More than 600 detainees, including minors who were arbitrarily rounded up during mass arrests in Maiduguri metro area, were allegedly killed as they awaited trials in degrading conditions at the facility, rights groups said at the time.
The controversial operation began hours after Boko Haram insurgents breached military protection at the barracks and rescued hundreds of other members of the sect who had been held there as part of the government’s efforts to stamp out the insurgency — which entered its first decade in July 2019.
Many of those killed included suspected Boko Haram operatives recaptured by soldiers after the jailbreak.
Although the military initially claimed it responded swiftly to the attack and prevented the attackers from rescuing their fellow sect members from the cell, evidence that later emerged from the scenes, including a propaganda video from the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau, countered official narratives and exposed the severity of the attack.
Following public outrage, the Nigerian military said the incident would be investigated, and raised several panels to look into the conduct of its personnel. Six years on, however, no concrete findings relating to the alleged extra-judicial executions had been made public, Amnesty International said in a statement on Saturday.
Families of the victims have now waited for more than half a decade without justice for their loved ones killed at Giwa Barracks, the frontline rights group said, calling on authorities to address the situation.
“We have repeatedly called on Nigerian authorities to initiate independent and effective investigations to ensure that those behind the massacre that happened six years ago face justice,” Osai Ojigho, head of Amnesty International Nigeria, said.
“Despite repeated promises by the present government and establishing various committees to investigate the 14 March 2014 killings, not a single person has been held responsible or brought to justice for the mass killings that is among the most horrific incidents perpetrated by the military in the ongoing conflict in the north east,” Mrs Ojigho added.
Giwa Barracks was opened as a temporary detention centre for Boko Haram detainees, but several years on, rights groups said it has become one of the notorious cells operated by the Nigerian military across the war-ravaged northeast.
In a 2016 report, Amnesty International described Giwa Barracks as “a place of death” and called for its immediate closure. The organisation estimated about 150 people died “in horrendous conditions” between January and May 2016 — including 11 children, four of whom were babies.
As of 2017, Borno State, the heartland of the insurgency, estimated 100,000 people had been killed by Boko Haram; while more than two million were displaced. The insurgency, which has since spilled into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic, also left thousands of Nigerian soldiers killed.
Sagir Musa, chief spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, declined calls and messages from PREMIUM TIMES seeking comments on what steps the military has taken towards justice years after the reported massacre.
Despite mounting allegations of horrific treatment of detainees by soldiers in both Giwa Barracks and other parts of the northeast, Nigerian military has maintained no wrongdoing in its counter-terrorism measures, dismissing independent reports as a campaign to harm its reputation and demoralise its soldiers.
Yet, the fact that not a single person has been brought to justice for the Giwa Barracks massacre shows lack of genuine commitment to protecting human rights and a deliberate attempt to shield human rights violators from facing justice, Amnesty said.
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