Nigeria Army Fighting Boko Haram May Be Abusing Rights: Watchdog

Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission said it received credible allegations security forces have been involved in human rights violations, including rape, in their fight against the Boko Haram Islamist group.

According to the allegations, the Joint Task Force, which is fighting the militant group, has carried out “summary executions, torture, arbitrary detention amounting to internment,” the government’s human rights watchdog said in a report released yesterday.

“In particular, we have received persistent and credibly attested allegations of indiscriminate disposal of dead human remains” by JTF personnel and the northeastern Borno state Environmental Protection Agency, the Abuja-based agency said.

Nigerian authorities have been battling Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in gun and bomb attacks across Nigeria’s north and Abuja, the capital, since 2009, while fighting to establish an Islamic state in Africa’s top oil producer.

At least five wards in the town of Baga in Borno state were “completely razed by the soldiers,” as they responded to an April 16 attack by Boko Haram that killed a soldier, the commission said, citing a police report. Local officials and residents in Baga, a town near Lake Chad, say at least 185 people were killed and more than 2,000 houses were burnt town.

“Properties worth millions of naira were lost” amid the fire which burned more than 30 vehicles, 57 motorcycles and 100 bags of beans and maize, the commission said, citing the police report.

‘Thresholds of Killing’

The military said only six civilians were killed, while one soldier and 30 Boko Haram fighters died in fighting. They said 30 thatched houses were burned due to incendiaries set off by weapons used by Boko Haram.

Defense Headquarters spokesman Chris Olukolade in Abuja declined to comment on the report when contact today by phone for comment by Bloomberg News.

“The impression has been created in the controversy that has followed this incident that certain thresholds of killing may be permissible as long as they are made to appear low enough,” the commission said. “Tragically, Government has not done enough to discourage this impression.”

Boko Haram, whose name means “western education is a sin” in the local Hausa language, began its campaign to start an Islamic state in Nigeria in 2009.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared emergency rule in Borno and two other northeastern states on May 14, saying the militants were taking over parts of the region.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with more than 160 million people almost evenly divided between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maram Mazen in Abuja at mmazen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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