Amnesty International reveals shocking details of how Nigerian security forces rape, starve Boko Haram victims

The global rights group call on President Muhammadu Buhari to demonstrate his frequently expressed commitment to protect the human rights of displaced people in north-east Nigeria

  • Amnesty International said it has collected evidence that thousands of people have starved to death in the camps in Borno state, north-east Nigeria, since 2015.
  • Women said the sexual exploitation follows an organised system, with soldiers openly coming into the camp for sex and Civilian JTF members choosing the “very beautiful” women and girls to take to the soldiers outside
  • The global rights group call on President Buhari to demonstrate his frequently expressed commitment to protect the human rights of displaced people in north-east Nigeria.

The Rights group stated this in a new report released on Thursday, May 24, 2018, titled “They betrayed us”.

"They betrayed us" revealed how the Nigerian military and Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) - a militia who work alongside the Nigerian military in the campaign against the insurgency in the Northeastern part of Nigeria – have separated women from their husbands and confined them in remote “satellite camps” where they have been raped, sometimes in exchange for food.

Amnesty International said it has collected evidence that thousands of people have starved to death in the camps in Borno state, north-east Nigeria, since 2015.

Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria said: “It is absolutely shocking that people who had already suffered so much under Boko Haram have been condemned to further horrendous abuse by the Nigerian military.”

“Instead of receiving protection from the authorities, women and girls have been forced to succumb to rape in order to avoid starvation or hunger.”

Highlights of the report:

Rape of starving women, sexual exploitation

“Scores of women described how soldiers and Civilian JTF members have used force and threats to rape women in satellite camps, including by taking advantage of hunger to coerce women to become their “girlfriends”, which involved being available for sex on an ongoing basis.

“Sex in these highly coercive circumstances is always rape, even when physical force is not used,” Osai Ojigho said.

Nigerian women account

Five women told Amnesty International that they were raped in late 2015 and early 2016 in Bama Hospital camp as famine-like conditions prevailed.

Ama (not her real name), 20, said: “They will give you food but in the night they will come back around 5 pm or 6 pm and they will tell you to come with them… One [Civilian JTF] man came and brought food to me. The next day he said I should take water from his place [and I went]. He then closed the tent door behind me and raped me. He said I gave you these things, if you want them we have to be husband and wife”.

Ten others in the same camp said that they were also coerced into becoming “girlfriends” of security officials to save themselves from starvation. Most of these women had already lost children or other relatives due to lack of food, water and healthcare in the camp. The sexual exploitation continues at an alarming level as women remain desperate to access sufficient food and livelihood opportunities.

Women said the sexual exploitation follows an organised system, with soldiers openly coming into the camp for sex and Civilian JTF members choosing the “very beautiful” women and girls to take to the soldiers outside. Women reported they were too afraid to refuse demands for sex.

Women detained in Giwa barracks

Amnesty International’s research further reveals that hundreds of women along with their children have been held in the notorious Giwa Barracks detention centre since 2015. While most have been released, an unknown number remain in military detention.

Many of those detained since 2015 had been victims of abductions or forced marriages by Boko Haram and were detained by the military for being so-called “Boko Haram wives” instead of being rescued.

Deaths as a result of hunger

People confined in the satellite camps faced an acute food shortage from early 2015 until mid-2016, when humanitarian assistance was increased.

At least hundreds, and possibly thousands, died in Bama Hospital camp alone during this time. AI said those interviewed consistently reported that 15 to 30 people died each day from hunger and sickness during these months. Satellite images, showing how the graveyard inside the camp expanded quickly during this time, confirm their testimonies. There were also daily deaths in other satellite camps such as those in Banki and Dikwa.

Boko Haram abuses

Women interviewed by AI often spent months or years living under the repressive rule of Boko Haram. Some reported being forced into marriages with Boko Haram members or being flogged when caught breaking the armed group’s strict rules. Seven said they witnessed the executions of family members or neighbours after unsuccessful attempts to escape.

Time for action

Since 2015, various NGOs and humanitarian organizations have reported sexual violence and deaths in camps for internally displaced people in north-east Nigeria. While the authorities frequently promised to investigate such reports, there has been no tangible action to address the problem and no one appears to have been brought to justice. It is not always clear if these investigations were carried out as no reports have been made public.

In August 2017, the Acting President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo established the Presidential Investigation Panel to review the military’s compliance with its human rights obligations. Many women testified before the Panel, which submitted its report to President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2018.

“Now is the time for President Buhari to demonstrate his frequently expressed commitment to protect the human rights of displaced people in north-east Nigeria. The only way to end these horrific violations is by ending the climate of impunity in the region and ensuring that no one can get away with rape or murder,” said Osai Ojigho.

The group had earlier in April 2018, also revealed that Nigeria imposed the highest number of death sentences and the highest number of people under death sentence in Sub Saharan Africa in 2017.

The Rights group noted that with a total of 2,285 people currently on death row in Nigeria, the country is also the highest in the region, although no executions were carried out in 2017.

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