Nov 5, 2012 (121105)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Even as new reports from international human rights groups document
a pattern of major offenses against human rights by both
Boko Haram extremists and government security forces in
northern Nigeria, new incidents in the most affected area of
Nigeria's northeast include execution of some 40 people by
security forces in Maiduguri and the assassination the next
day of retired General Muhammadu Shuwa. Boko Haram has
denied government charges that they were responsible for
killing the general.
Reports from both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty
International, based on new investigations this year, bave
documented indiscriminate violence against civilians claimed
by Boko Haram. The security force response, however, has also been characterized by
indiscriminate violence against civilians suspect of
supporting or harboring Boko Haram.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a brief news report and
analysis of security force actions from Radio Netherlands
Worldwide, two press releases from Amnesty International
from earlier this month, and a press release from Human
Rights Watch from October. The full Amnesty and Human Rights
Watch reports are available at the links given below.
Earlier this year, some U.S. officials were proposing that
Boko Haram be officially designated a terrorist
organization, a measure that would have been counterproductive.
Fortuntely, the U.S. government has followed the
advice of its own Africa specialists and so far refrained
from taking such a step. See http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/bh1206.php
Boko Haram and security forces have been in an ongoing
Since 2009 an estimated 2,800 people have died as a result
of Boko Haram's insurgency and the military response by the
Nigerian government. After a recent spate of killings by
security agents, some Maiduguri residents feel this
destruction now overshadows the menace of the Islamist sect.
Thirty young men were killed last month and another 40
publicly shot last Thursday by operatives of the Nigerian
Joint Task Force (JTF).
"What is happening in Maiduguri is very disturbing and
heartbreaking," says a young grains trader, who prefers to
remain anonymous. "I lost three cousins in one of these
killings. The murderous activities of soldiers and policemen
who kill senselessly must be stopped. The thirty young men
who were killed last month had no trial to prove their
guilt. I swear: if the youths get angry, not even the
soldiers can stop them."
Government patience gone
The administration of Goodluck Jonathan has apparently run
out of patience with the Islamist sect after repeatedly
failing at establishing communication.
"You can't blame the soldiers," says a civil servant from
Maiduguri who is spending his annual leave in Jos in the
Plateau State. "The government has tried to talk but the
sect refuses to come to the dialogue table and they continue
to wreck havoc on Nigerians. It's very unfortunate that
innocent Nigerians are caught in the crossfire but I'm happy
with what the soldiers are doing. I think the use of force
is the only option the Nigerian government has."
"I think the destruction and killings by soldiers in
Maiduguri are avoidable," says David Bah, a student of
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi. "The soldiers
are very angry with the residents because they often
accommodate and shield the terrorists. If community members
cooperate with the soldiers I'm sure some of the
extrajudicial killings will be avoided."
"I was born in Gwange area of Miaduguri," says the grains
trader who conducts his his work between Bauchi, Gombe and
the south of Nigeria. "I don't look forward to going home
because almost daily I get phone calls from home about my
peers being killed by soldiers. They're supposed to protect
us. But if they keep killing us, how can we trust them or
even offer help?"
Lack of community cooperation
The effectiveness of counter-terrorism depends largely on
the level of cooperation between government forces and local
communities. In Maiduguri, the main base for Boko Haram, the
JTF is apparently failing to inspire the required confidence
and trust among locals. Besides improving the conduct of JTF
agents and their intelligence gathering and interagency
cooperation, the government must also address general living
conditions, many locals say.
"Whether we admit it or not, Boko Haram is a reflection of
government's insensitivity to the plight of poor Nigerians,"
says Sani, a young graduate assistant at Ahmadu Bello
"The so-called terrorists are poor Nigerians who are tired
of poverty, deprivation and the lack of basic social
amenities as a result of corruption among government
officials. The government and JTF must know that the use of
force is very counter-productive in this context because the
people are only crying out for a better life. So give it to
them instead of killing them."
"One of our profession's key principles is the respect for
higher authority," says a young police officer, who prefers
to remain anonymous, serving with the Special Task Force in
Jos. "Once an order is given, you risk a query or some form
of punishment if you disobey. I don't look forward to
spilling innocent blood and I'm sure no security agent in
his right senses enjoys it. But sometimes as a rank-and-file
you don't have any choice than to do what you've been
ordered to do."
Nigeria: Security forces out of control in fight against
terror of Boko Haram
(Abuja) The brutal actions of Nigeria's security forces in
response to Boko Haram's campaign of terror are making an
already desperate situation even worse, Amnesty
International said in a report released today.
The report, Nigeria: Trapped in the cycle of violence,
documents the atrocities carried out by Boko Haram as well
as the serious human rights violations carried out by the
security forces in response, including enforced
disappearance, torture, extrajudicial executions, the
torching of homes and detention without trial.
"The cycle of attack and counter-attack has been marked by
unlawful violence on both sides, with devastating
consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the
middle," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty
"People are living in a climate of fear and insecurity,
vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights
violations at the hands of the very state security forces
which should be protecting them."
Grave human rights abuses have been committed by Boko Haram
including murder, burning down schools and churches and
attacking media houses and journalists. The report documents
the increasing climate of fear where people are too scared
to report crimes and journalists will not cover them out of
fear for their own safety.
At the same time, the security operations targeting Boko
Haram have been conducted with little regard for the rule of
law or human rights.
Hundreds of people accused of having links to Boko Haram
have been arbitrarily detained by a combination of the Joint
Task Force (JTF) - a combined forces group commissioned by
the President to restore law and order in areas affected by
Boko Haram - the State Security Service (SSS) and the
Many have remained in detention for lengthy periods without
charge or trial, without proper notification of family
members, without being brought before any judicial
authority, and without access to lawyers or the outside
world. A significant number have even been extra-judicially
One man explained to Amnesty International how his brother
was arrested by security forces. After several attempts to
find him, he eventually saw his dead body at a police
station. "There were [what looked like] cable marks on his
body, bruises everywhere???The right side of his head was
bruised. There was shock on his face. I can't forget
that???I haven't made a complaint. I'm afraid."
"The government of Nigeria must take effective action to
protect the population against Boko Harem's campaign of
terror in northern and central Nigeria, but they must do so
within the boundaries of the rule of law. Every injustice
carried out in the name of security only fuels more
terrorism, creating a vicious circle of murder and
destruction," said Salil Shetty.
"Only by clarifying the truth about events, establishing
accountability for abuses, and bringing to justice those
responsible can confidence in the justice system be restored
and human rights be guaranteed."
Note to editors:
An Amnesty International delegation visited Kano and Borno
states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between
February and July 2012.
They interviewed victims of attacks, family members of
people who have been killed, arrested or detained and those
whose houses had been burnt down. The team also met with key
government ministers, representatives of the security
forces, judges, teachers, journalists and lawyers.
The delegation requested but was denied access to prisons,
police stations, military or State Security Service (SSS)
Nigeria: Independent investigation into Maiduguri killings
Dozens of men and boys from Maiduguri in northern Nigeria
have been reportedly shot by security forces as Amnesty
International published a report condemning human rights
violations by the security forces in response to the Boko
Haram campaign of violence.
Amnesty International has received reports that between
Tuesday evening and Thursday morning scores of men were
taken out of their houses by the Joint Task Force (JTF) and
the younger men were then shot.
According to information received by Amnesty International
at least 30 bodies have been deposited at Maiduguri teaching
hospital morgue with gun shot wounds.
One eye-witness told Amnesty International that on Thursday
she saw dozens of bodies on the floor of the morgue with
bullet wounds. Some burials took place on Friday morning.
These reports were received as Amnesty International's
Secretary General, Salil Shetty, concluded a high level
mission to Nigeria. He had presented the findings of Amnesty
International's latest report to members of the government
and met with civil society members.
"These reports from Maiduguri are shocking," said Salil
Shetty as he prepared to leave Nigeria.
"They underline the importance of Amnesty International's
call for thorough investigation into all reports of human
"As Amnesty International's report, launched this week,
already emphasized, the security services must act within
the law. You can't build security through creating
Amnesty International met the Attorney General of the
Federation following the launch of the report where he, on
behalf of the President, made commitments to investigate all
reports of human rights violations by the security forces
and said that any state actor found responsible will be
brought to justice.
Prior to the public launch on 1 November, the findings of
the report were shared in a confidential written briefing to
the relevant government bodies in August.
It was sent to the Minister of Police Affairs, the Minister
of Interior, the Attorney General of the Federation and
Minister of Justice, the Inspector General of Police, the
Office of the National Security Adviser, the Chief of
Defence Staff and the Commissioners of Police for Borno and
The document contained an appendix with the details of each
case documented by Amnesty International, including the
names, locations, the name of the relevant security agency
involved, and requesting further information and an
investigation into the reports.
The identities of some people were withheld from the final
report - a public document with a global readership - to
protect their safety.
"As a leading actor on the African and international stage,
Nigeria must address the inherent problems with its security
forces and show real respect for the rule of law," said
On the same day Amnesty International launched the report,
delegates were granted permission to visit Special AntiRobbery
Squad police station Abuja to visit Ibrahim Umar,
who remains detained there despite a court order for his
release issued in August.
The delegates were told by the SARS police officers that he
had been transferred to another station. After their
departure, Amnesty International received information that
Ibrahim Umar had, in fact, been taken to a different
location within the station.
"It looks as though Ibrahim Umar was hidden from us with the
express intention of concealing his whereabouts. It would be
a significant step if the police could now release this man,
respecting the court order," said Shetty.
"We urge the government to act on its commitment to bring to
justice all those responsible for human violations. A vital
first step is to introduce a witness protection programme
that makes those who are victims of human rights violations
feel safe when they call on the police for protection."
Nigeria: Boko Haram Attacks Likely Crimes Against Humanity
Security Force Abuses Help Fuel Spiraling Violence
(Abuja) - Widespread and systematic murder and persecution
by Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group in northern Nigeria
likely amount to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch
said in a report released today. Government security forces
have also engaged in numerous abuses, including
extrajudicial killings, Human Rights Watch said.
The 98-page report, "Spiraling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks
and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria," catalogues atrocities
for which Boko Haram has claimed responsibility. It also
explores the role of Nigeria's security forces, whose own
alleged abuses contravene international human rights law and
might also constitute crimes against humanity. The violence,
which first erupted in 2009, has claimed more than 2,800
"The unlawful killing by both Boko Haram and Nigerian
security forces only grows worse; both sides need to halt
this downward spiral," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director
at Human Rights Watch. "Nigeria's government should swiftly
bring to justice the Boko Haram members and security agents
who have committed these serious crimes."
The report, which includes a photo essay, is based on field
research in Nigeria between July 2010 and July 2012, and the
continuous monitoring of media reports of Boko Haram attacks
and statements since 2009. Human Rights Watch researchers
interviewed 135 people, including 91 witnesses and victims
of Boko Haram violence or security forces abuses, as well as
lawyers, civil society leaders, government officials, and
senior military and police personnel.
Since 2009, hundreds of attacks by suspected Boko Haram
members have left more than 1,500 people dead, according to
media reports monitored by Human Rights Watch. In the first
nine months of 2012 alone, more than 815 people died in some
275 suspected attacks by the group - more than in all of
2010 and 2011 combined.
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is a sin" in the
Hausa language of northern Nigeria, seeks to impose a strict
form of Sharia, or Islamic law, in northern Nigeria and end
government corruption. Widespread poverty, corruption,
police abuse, and longstanding impunity for a range of
crimes have created a fertile ground for violent militancy
in Nigeria, Human Rights Watch said.
Boko Haram's attacks - centered in northern Nigeria - have
primarily targeted police and other government security
agents, Christians, and Muslims working for or accused of
cooperating with the government.The group has also bombed
newspaper offices and the United Nations building in the
capital, Abuja; attacked beer halls and robbed banks; and
burned down schools.
Five days of clashes between the group and security forces,
and brazen execution-style killings by both sides, left more
than 800 people dead in July 2009 and precipitated further
violence. Security personnel in 2009 arrested and summarily
executed the group's leader, Mohammed Yusuf, along with at
least several dozen of his followers, in the northern city
When the group reemerged in 2010 under the leadership of
Abubakar Shekau, Yusuf's former deputy, it vowed to avenge
the killings of its members. Suspected Boko Haram members
have since attacked more than 60 police stations in at least
10 northern and central states and bombed the police
headquarters in Abuja. According to media reports monitored
by Human Rights Watch, at least 211 police officers have
been killed in these attacks.
A widow of a police officer killed by Boko Haram said that
members of the group attacked a police barracks in the city
of Kano in January 2012 while disguised in police uniforms:
I was standing in the doorway. I saw five men in mobile
police uniforms. They had AK-47s. They didn't say anything.
One of them shot me in the leg and I fell inside the house.
My husband, he was in uniform, came out and saw them. He had
no gun. He asked, "Colleagues, why did you shoot my wife?"
And then they shot him, bang in the forehead. He fell down
Police took the woman to the hospital the next morning where
doctors amputated her right leg above the knee.
Boko Haram has also claimed responsibility for targeting and
killing numerous Christians in northern Nigeria. Suspected
members of the group have bombed or opened fire on
worshipers in at least 18 churches across eight northern and
central states since 2010. In Maiduguri, the group also
forced Christian men to convert to Islam on penalty of
death, Human Rights Watch found.
Suspected Boko Haram gunmen, often riding motorcycles and
carrying AK-47s under their robes, have also gunned down
more than a dozen Muslim clerics and assassinated
traditional leaders for allegedly speaking out against its
tactics or for cooperating with authorities to identify
group members. The group also has claimed responsibility for
killing northern politicians and civil servants - nearly all
"Boko Haram has callously murdered people while they pray at
church services in northern Nigeria," Bekele said. "It has
also gunned down Muslims who openly oppose the group's
Nigeria's government has responded to Boko Haram with a
heavy hand. Security forces have killed hundreds of Boko
Haram suspects and other members of the public with no
apparent links to the group, in the name of ending the
group's threat to the country's citizens. But the
authorities have rarely prosecuted those responsible for the
Boko Haram violence or security force personnel for their
During security raids in communities where attacks have
occurred, the military have allegedly engaged in excessive
use of force and other human rights violations, such as
burning homes, physical abuse, and extrajudicial killings,
witnesses told Human Rights Watch.
The Nigerian authorities have also arrested hundreds of
people in raids across the north. Many of these people have
been held incommunicado without charge or trial for months
or even years. In some cases they have been detained in
inhuman conditions and subject to physical abuse or death.
The fate of many of those detained remains unclear.
Boko Haram should immediately cease all attacks, and threats
of attacks, that cause loss of life, injury, and destruction
of property, Human Rights Watch said. The Nigerian
government should take urgent measures to address the human
rights abuses that have helped fuel the violent militancy.
"Nigeria's government has a responsibility to protect its
citizens from violence, but also to respect international
human rights law," Bekele said. "Instead of abusive tactics
that only add to the toll, the authorities should prosecute
without delay those responsible for such serious crimes."
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