Survivors Of Boko Haram Further Abused By Nigerian Military Forces: Amnesty International

An Amnesty International report has accused the Nigerian military of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

What you need to know
  • Boko Haram is Nigeria's militant Islamist group fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state
  • The conflict between the insurgency and the military has killed thousands and displaced millions
  • A report by Amnesty International claims women in 'satellite camps' set up to protect them, are facing abuse by soldiers

According to Amnesty International, thousands of women and girls who survived the brutal rule of Boko Haram have escaped the hands of one abuser, and been placed into the arms of another.

In a report published Thursday, the human rights group detailed claims that the Nigerian military and members of the Civilian JFT, the militia that fight alongside them, have carried out “systematic patterns of violence and abuse” in the camps set up for those who fled towns controlled by the Islamist insurgency group in north-east Nigeria.

Hundreds of people reportedly died of starvation in the Bama Hospital Camp between 2015 and 2016. Image: Gbemiga Olamikan

Based on hundreds of in-depth interviews, 'They Betrayed Us' claims Nigerian security forces separated women from their husbands and confined them to the remote camps, where they were starved, beaten and raped, often in exchange for food.

“The soldiers, they betrayed us, they said that we should come out of from our villages,” said Yakura, who fled Andara village, Borno state, in December 2016.

“They said it would be safer and that they would give us a secure place to stay. But when we came, they betrayed us. They detained our husbands and then they raped us women.”

The conflict between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram -- the Islamist militant group raging war in an attempt to make northern Nigeria an Islamic state -- has been ongoing for nine years and displaced more than two million people.

Amnesty International says as the nation's military recovered territory from the group in 2015, it forced people living in rural villages to leave their homes and move to the camps, in some cases burning down homes and opening fire indiscriminately at remaining residents. The forced displacement of civilians is a violation of international humanitarian law.

The report referred to eight camps in north-eastern state of Borno. Image: Amnesty International

According to the report, thousands died in the camps between late 2015 and mid/late 2016 due to a lack of food, water and health care.

Women described how solders and Civilian JTF members took advantage of the conditions to coerce them to become their "girlfriends", which involved being available for sex in exchange for access to food.

"Instead of receiving protection from the authorities, women and girls have been forced to succumb to rape in order to avoid starvation or hunger," Director of Amnesty International Nigeria Osai Ojigho said.

“Sex in these highly coercive circumstances is always rape, even when physical force is not used."

The report also claimed the sexual exploitation is systematic, with members of the civilian militia choosing "very beautiful" women and girls for soldiers to abuse.

In some cases, the abuse was the result of the persecution of anyone perceived to have a connection to Boko Haram, with women reportedly beaten and called "Boko Haram wives" when they complained of their treatment.

A photographer captured a mother with her severely malnourished child in Bama Hospital Camp. Image: Gbemiga Olamikan

In a statement, the Nigerian military described Amnesty’s findings as “a false report on fictitious rape incidents in IDP (internally displaced person) camps in the North East region of Nigeria" and urged citizens to continue trusting and supporting the military in its fight against Boko Haram.

Boko Haram -- which translates to "Western education is a sin" -- has spurred an insurgency that has resulted in more than 20,000 deaths. The group  arguably drew the most global attention for its abduction of 276 school girls in Borno State in 2014, and in 2015 declared its allegiance to terrorist organisation IS.

In response to Amnesty International's report, Ojigho said it was time for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari "to demonstrate his frequently-expressed commitment to protect the human rights of displaced people in northeast 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."

Featured image: Gbemiga Olamikan