AIUSA letter to Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy Urging Trump administration to Press Nigeria to protect children in Northeast Nigeria from abuses driven by Boko Haram insurgency and government's counter insurgency

July 6, 2020

The Honorable Tibor Nagy
Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of African Affairs
U.S. Department of State
C and 22nd Street
Washington DC 20520

June 9, 2020

Dear Assistant Secretary Nagy,

On behalf of Amnesty International USA, I am writing to urge you to call upon President Buhari to take urgent action to protect children in Northeast Nigeria by 1. Immediately releasing all children held in Giwa Barracks, the Kainji military base, Maiduguri Maximum Prison, Safe Corridor, and other detention facilities associated with the conflict in Northeast Nigeria, or bring them before an independent, civilian court that ensures due process and gives primary consideration to the best interests of the child; and 2. Ensuring that members of Boko Haram and of the military suspected of being responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious human rights violations and abuses are investigated and prosecuted in fair trials, including senior military officials in charge of detention facilities like Bama Prison, Giwa Barracks, and the Kainji military base during periods of grave and systemic violations.

We also urge you to initiate a review of the Operation Safe Corridor initiative and strongly consider conditioning further US support for the program on guarantees and tangible progress by the Nigerian authorities in respecting due process of those deprived of their liberty, to ensure that detainees in Safe Corridor are there pursuant to a judicial decision with a clear basis in law and under conditions that meet international human rights and humanitarian law. Between November 2019 and April 2020, Amnesty International interviewed more than 230 people affected by the conflict in Northeast Nigeria, including 119 who were children when they suffered serious crimes by Boko Haram, the Nigerian military, or both. The report, “We Dried Our Tears,” revealed that both sides of the conflict have committed many crimes against children, with devastating consequences both immediate and long-term. The violence in Northeast Nigeria and the endless cycle of human rights violations by Boko Haram and the Nigerian military have caused children to be caught up in a nightmare with little hope of ever ending in sight. Children who escape from Boko Haram are often detained by the Nigerian military without any evidence of a crime. Thousands of children have been detained unlawfully, often in the same cells with adults, and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment through grossly inhuman conditions that have often led to death. Most such detentions are unlawful, with children never charged, much less prosecuted, for any crime. The Nigerian government and military must uphold their responsibilities with respect to international human rights, including the specific protections that exist for children.

Moreover, for most of the children in Northeast Nigeria, even primary education is inaccessible, which threatens to cause a lost generation. UNICEF has reported that only around 25 percent of children in Borno State, which is the epicenter of the conflict, are in school. Nigeria controls most of the major cities and towns in Borno State but has failed to ensure the children there have access to education.

Equally troubling is the failure of Nigerian authorities to investigate and prosecute
alleged perpetrators of the catalogue of crimes committed by Boko Haram and by
the Nigerian military which fuel further violations that negatively impact the
livelihoods of children. Nigeria must implement their laws to protect the children
affected by the conflict.

Adotei Akwei
Deputy Director Advocacy and Government Relations
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE Ste. 500
Washington DC 20003
Tel: 646-385-9389
Email: [email protected]