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Nigerian army reacts to Amnesty International’s claims on girls detention after escape from Boko Haram

Nigerian army reacts to Amnesty International’s claims on girls detention after escape from Boko Haram

Amnesty International on Monday accused the Nigerian army of illegally detaining girls and young women who have escaped from Boko Haram captivity because the military believes they support the Islamist insurgent group.

The military in a statement denied the allegations, which the human rights group said were based on 126 interviews from 2019 to 2024 with female former captives.

Thirty-one said they were unlawfully held in military barracks for several days to almost four years between 2015 and mid-2023, typically because of their real or perceived association to Boko Haram, Amnesty said in a report.

READ ALSO: Amnesty International vows to fight Tinubu’s ‘dangerous and oppressive’ move to regulate social media in Nigeria

Boko Haram has fought an armed rebellion in Nigeria’s Northeast, which the U.N. says has killed more than 35,000 people. With a reputation for brutality, the group has been accused of torture, rape, forced marriage and kidnapping. The most well-known incident was the abduction of 300 girls from Chibok in 2014.

Since then, more girls have been abducted, and many have lived for years with Boko Haram fighters. Some have escaped.

“The Nigerian government has failed to uphold their human rights obligations to protect and adequately support these girls and young women,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s regional director for West and Central Africa, in the report.

Defence spokesperson Major General Edward Buba said the military respects human rights and upholds humanitarian law.

Nigeria’s military “operates within the ambit of international law of armed conflict,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Nigeria’s military has launched a counteroffensive against the Islamist group that has also attracted criticism of harsh tactics.

A Reuters’ investigation last year alleged that the military secretly ran a mass abortion programme in its war against Boko Haram.

Nigerian military reacts

The Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba, in a statement on Monday said:

  1. The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to allegations labelled against the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) by Report of Amnesty International launched during a Press Conference in Abuja on 10 June 2024. Accordingly, the AFN hereby makes it unequivocally clear that, it is a professional military force that operates within the ambit of International law of armed conflict. Additionally, the AFN adheres to humanitarian law and principles governing human rights.
  2. Furthermore, the AFN elects not to join words with organisations such as Amnesty International, rather would encourage them to approach the military high command to substantiate their allegations. The military has self regulating mechanisms with which it administers the military justice system to address any proven case of misconduct of personnel.
  3. It is worthy of note to state that, the AFN led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa OFR, has zero tolerance for indiscipline and any form of improper conduct during operations across the country. It is for this reason that, there are standing court martials to treat any form of misbehaviour by erring personnel, especially those that portray the military negatively to the general populace.
  4. Lastly, the AFN will remain focussed on its objective. We will be unperturbed by such self serving statements targeted at dampening the moral of troops in operational theatres. Rather, we will engage constructively with Amnesty International, where available. Overall, we will continue on the trajectory of conducting operations assiduously to defeat terrorism in our nation.

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