Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed his new government will investigate the military in response to an extensive Amnesty International Report claiming that thousands of Boko Haram suspects, some as young as nine years old, were tortured, starved, or extrajudicially executed in the past five years.
“I assure you that your report will be looked into,” Nigerian media quote Buhari as stating in response to the report. The remarks were relayed to the press from Senior Special Assistant (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu, who is currently in Niger with Buhari on a diplomatic trip. “Respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law are the life and soul of the democratic system,” Buhari reportedly said, adding, “We will not tolerate or condone impunity and reckless disregard for human rights.”
The Amnesty report, titled “Stars on Their Shoulders. Blood on Their Hands: War Crimes Committed by the Nigerian Military,” alleges that more than 7,000 “young men and boys” have been killed in military operations, mostly against the jihadist terror group Boko Haram, which has since renamed itself the Islamic State West Africa Province. In addition, the report claims that more than 8,000 people have been “murdered, starved, suffocated, and tortured to death.”
Amnesty alleges that the Nigerian military’s own statistics show that 20,000 men and boys have been arrested since 2009 for having ties to Boko Haram, most either rounded up in large raids in which hundreds were arrested, or arrested individually after being accused by one “secret informant.” They also claim a major human rights violation occurred on March 14, 2014, after 640 prisoners were killed at the Giwa barracks while attempting to escape. Boko Haram had attacked the barracks with the intention of liberating their members. Boko Haram attacked the barracks again two months later.
The International Criminal Court has announced it will investigate the claims.
While Amnesty has managed to estimate the death toll of alleged crimes by the Nigerian military, there are few reliable estimates of how many people have died at the hands of Boko Haram. In October 2014, The Washington Post estimated that 29,600 Nigerians had been killed in Boko Haram attacks since 1998. One month later, national news outlet News24 estimated that 100,000 had died since 2011, when Boko Haram began ravaging northeastern Nigeria. Both these estimates were published after Boko Haram’s largest massacre to date occurred in January 2015, where an estimated 2,000 people were killed in one day.
President Buhari, currently in Niger to discuss military coordination with the border nation and the repatriation of Nigerian refugees who have fled to Niger, vowed once again to eradicate the terrorist threat during his newly-minted tenure. “I renew my commitment to track Boko Haram into a corner, to destroy it. Five years of the presence of this evil sect is enough,” he said. He also stated that he believed many Nigerien troops would be ready to return home in the coming months, and Nigerian soldiers took their places in towns and villages reclaimed from Boko Haram.