September 10, 2019
The NGO’s latest report says the Nigerian military continues to detain thousands of children in “inhuman conditions” Allegedly, the minors collaborated with Boko Haram.
The report called “‘They Didn’t Know if I Was Alive or Dead”: Military Detention of Children for Suspected Boko Haram Involvement in Northeast Nigeria,” says many children are “held without charge for months or years in overcrowded military barracks.”
In 2016, amid mounting pressure owing to reports of abuses against children in Nigerian detention center, the United Nations negotiated the release of more than a thousand children detained for allegedly collaborating with the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, including some as young as five years old.
At the time, the UN’s children’s fund UNICEF said it feared that hundreds of minors were still detained by the Nigerian military in its barracks in Giwa, in Maiduguri, the main military detention facility in Borno state. According to the UN, 418 children were detained in 2018, against 1,900 the year before.
Now Human Rights Watch (HRW) says there are still many children in Giwa — 32 minors interviewed there by HRW in June described beatings, overwhelming heat and overcrowded cells, according to the report. “Children are being detained in horrific conditions for years, with little or no evidence of involvement with Boko Haram, and without even being taken to court,” HRW’s children’s rights advocacy director, Jo Becker, said.
No end to suffering after release
Many of the children said they were arrested after fleeing Boko Haram attacks on their village or while seeking refuge at camps for internally displaced people. One said he was arrested and detained for more than two years for allegedly selling yams to Boko Haram members. Several of the detained girls had been abducted by Boko Haram or forced to marry Boko Haram fighters. Detainees also accuse Nigerian soldiers of sexually abusing girls.
The children do not go to school, being allowed only to pray, watch television and profit from lessons given by some of their older peers. Their troubles are not over when they are finally released, even without a charge, as has happened to around 2,200 minors since 2013. Many are rejected by their communities and suffer social stigma for their alleged involvement with Boko Haram.