Global human rights watch-dog, Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian military of razing villages; as well as forcibly displacing hundreds of residents in its fight against insurgency in the North East.
The new allegations came to light today, Friday, February 14, 2020.
Amnesty International alleges that the military’s action is a response to a recent escalation in attacks by Boko Haram. Specifically, it cited interviews with affected villagers in Borno State and satellite data analysis to back up its claims. Furthermore, it accused the Nigerian military of arbitrarily detaining six men from the displaced villages. Amnesty International held that this continued a pattern of human rights violations documented against the military; noting that this had been a feature of the decade-long war against insurgency in the North East.
Equally important, Amnesty International alleges that the men were held incommunicado for almost a month and subjected to ill-treatment. They were eventually released on Thursday, January 30, 2020.
“These brazen acts of razing entire villages, deliberately destroying civilian homes and forcibly displacing their inhabitants with no imperative military grounds, should be investigated as possible war crimes,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“They repeat a longstanding pattern of the Nigerian military’s brutal tactics against the civilian population. Forces allegedly responsible for such violations must be suspended immediately and brought to justice,” he stated.
The Nigerian military, often accused of human rights violations; is yet to respond to the latest allegations by Amnesty International.
The human rights body revealed that Boko Haram has carried out increasingly deadly attacks; particularly along the axis between Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capitals of Borno and Yobe States since December 2019. Further, it stated that in response, the Nigerian military had resorted to unlawful tactics; some of which it claims may amount to war crimes.
Residents, eye-witnesses back up allegations by Amnesty International
Specifically, it disclosed that Nigerian soldiers burnt down three villages in Borno State after forcing hundreds of residents to leave their homes in January. Also, Amnesty revealed that it interviewed 12 victims and reviewed fire data from remote satellite sensing; which indicates several large fires burning on and around January 2, 2020 in that area
‘‘Satellite imagery of Bukarti, Ngariri, and Matiri shows almost every structure was razed,’’ it stated.
Additionally, Amnesty International quoted residents who alleged that Nigerian soldiers went house to house and to surrounding farmland; forcing everyone to gather under a tree and by a graveyard between Bukarti and the main road. Also, soldiers were accused of rounding up people from neighbouring Matiri and bringing them to the same area.
“We saw our houses go into flames. We all started crying,” it quoted a 70-year-old woman from Bukarti as saying.
Subsequently, the soldiers relocated more than 400 people to an Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Maiduguri. The soldiers were accused of repeating the same action in Ngariri the next day; rounding up residents, razing down the village and relocating them to an IDP camp.
“Everything we harvested was destroyed, and some of our animals died. I had a year [of harvest] stored – it’s what I would’ve sold to buy clothes and other things for my family,’’ a farmer in his 60s told Amnesty.
Body calls on Nigerian Government to investigate war crimes against military
“Everything was burned, even our food – it could feed [my family] for two years,” said another man, around 30, who came back weeks later to see the destruction. “Our clothes, our food, our crops, our kettles. Even the trolley we used for getting water. Only the metal dishes are there, but everything else is burned.”
In addition, Amnesty International says soldiers detained the six men cited earlier, beating some of them; and held them for almost a month before releasing them without charge on January 30. Further, Amnesty referenced statements released by the Nigerian Army at the time that said six Boko Haram suspects; had been captured and hundreds of captives freed from the militants.
“They say they saved us from Boko Haram, but it’s a lie,” said one man aged roughly 65, according to Amnesty. “Boko Haram isn’t coming to our village.”
“If Boko Haram had been visiting our place, we have our own animals, our own harvest – do you think they wouldn’t have taken those?” said another older woman from Bukarti. “The [Boko Haram] boys aren’t close to us.”
“These brazen acts of razing entire villages, deliberately destroying civilian homes and forcibly displacing their inhabitants with no imperative military grounds, should be investigated as possible war crimes,” said Ojigho, director for Amnesty International Nigeria.