Women and Children Escaping from Boko Haram Being Locked Up

ICC Note: Many women and children who have either escaped from Boko Haram, or are fleeing their homes out of fear of the terrorist group, are being locked up in detention centers and interrogated by Nigerian military forces. These women and children are being arrested and detained without knowing why they are or when they will be released. The Nigerian military forces are currently engaged in trying to rid northeastern Nigeria of Boko Haram, and in this struggle they have allegedly begun confusing the guilty with the innocent. Since Boko Haram does recruit women and children as suicide bombers, it is difficult sometimes for the Nigerian forces to know who can be trusted, but this fear is now leading them to arbitrarily arrest thousands of people without evidence, hundreds of whom are children. The Nigerian Army has also been accused of torturing and killing some of the people that they detain before verifying whether they are truly Boko Haram sympathizers or not. Many of these women and children are Christian due to the fact that the areas most frequently targeted by Boko Haram are predominantly Christian.  

08/20/2016, Nigeria (The New York Times) - It had been more than a month, and Dije Ali was still locked in a military prison with her seven children.

She had thought they were being taken to safety. Her family and other villagers had been low on food and feared that Boko Haram was closing in. They ran to Nigerian soldiers for protection.

“Get in the vehicle,” Ms. Ali recalled the soldiers telling them.

But instead of being whisked to freedom, she said, her family wound up in a military detention center with 130 other women and their children, uncertain when they would be released — and why they were there.

“I didn’t know what I’d done wrong,” she said. “I was just praying God would get us out.”

Here in northeastern Nigeria, soldiers are fighting a brutal battle with Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group that has terrorized the region for years with its campaign of murder, kidnapping, rape and thievery.

But in its aggressive hunt for Boko Haram fighters, the Nigerian military has ensnared and detained scores of civilians, including toddlers and infants, for weeks or months. And sometimes, activists say, innocent people are never heard from again.

Nearly 150 people have died this year in just one of the detention centers, Giwa barracks, where Ms. Ali was held with her family, according to Amnesty International.

Eleven of the dead were children younger than 6, including four babies, it said. The prison this spring held 1,200 people, at least 120 of them children, Amnesty found.

[Full Story]