Accountability for human rights violations and abuses should be an indispensable part of the regional response to Boko Haram, Amnesty International said today.
As world leaders meet today for the Regional Security Summit in Abuja to discuss the collective effort to defeat Boko Haram and reconstruct the Lake Chad region, Amnesty International calls on them to ensure that justice remains a priority and to increase efforts to protect civilians.
“Whether they have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram, or of the security forces who were supposed to protect them, the conflict’s thousands of victims deserve justice,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.
“Despite repeated promises, governments affected by the conflict have not adequately investigated evidence of crimes under international law and human rights abuses and violations nor taken steps to prosecute and bring to trial the suspected perpetrators. Now is the time to put those promises into action.”
While focusing on efforts at combatting Boko Haram, the summit, the second of its kind, will also discuss measures to enhance security, deliver humanitarian assistance and plan for post-conflict reconstruction.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has killed thousands of civilians, abducted thousands more from their homes, and subjected women and girls to sexual violence. In Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, the armed group has destroyed towns and villages, forcing more than 2 million people from their homes and denying them access to their livelihoods. In these countries, security forces have also committed human rights violations and crimes under international law in their fight against Boko Haram.
Amnesty International has documented extrajudicial executions, deaths in military custody, enforced disappearances, the use of torture, looting and other violations by the state security forces of Nigeria and Cameroon. Chad and Niger have also been accused of human rights violations in the context of combatting Boko Haram, including by the United Nations.
The organization is still not aware of any members of security forces in those countries who have been brought to trial for crimes committed in the context of the fight against Boko Haram. This has created a climate of impunity, while deepening the frustration of families and victims who have a right to justice
A man whose brother was killed by Nigerian security forces told Amnesty International this year:
"Justice should be done. My brother was not Boko Haram. Those who killed him should be investigated so that they will not do this again. Our family is keeping this in our hearts, it is very painful, and there is nothing we can do.”
Amnesty International calls on governments attending the summit to develop mechanisms for accountability, and bring suspected perpetrators of crimes under international law before civilian courts in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.
In the week of the summit, Amnesty International published shocking revelations about the deaths of babies, among others, in Nigerian military detention centers. Evidence gathered by the organization showed that many detainees may have died from disease, hunger, dehydration, and gunshot wounds.
The regional summit will be hosted by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and will be attended by presidents from France, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Senegal and Gabon. The summit also aims at developing an action plan for basic infrastructural development of the areas worst affected by the conflict in order to allow for the return of internally displaced persons and refugees. On May 12, 2016, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty sent a letter to presidents attending the summit calling for justice to be a priority on the agenda.