JTF Killed 950 Boko Haram Members In Six Months, Amnesty International Alleges

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Amnesty International has alleged that the Joint Task Force (JTF), might have killed no less than 950 Boko Haram members in the first half of 2013.

The international body called on the Federal Government to urgently set up a panel to investigate the claim.

Most of the deaths were said to have occurred in facilities used by the military to detain suspected sect members in Giwa military barracks, Maiduguri in Borno State and Sector Alpha, also known as ‘Guantanamo’ as well as Presidential Lodge, known as ‘Guardroom’ in Damaturu,Yobe State.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by Lucy Freeman, Deputy Director Africa, Amnesty insisted that the deaths of hundreds of people in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force (JTF) should be investigated as a matter of urgency.

Citing an unknown senior officer in the Nigerian Army, the body claimed that over 950 people died in military custody in the first six months of 2013 alone.

Most of the reported deaths, it alleged, occurred in facilities used by the military to detain people suspected of being members of or associated with the Islamist group, Boko Haram.

The statement read in part: “The evidence we have gathered suggests that hundreds of people died in military custody in 2013 alone. This is a staggeringly high figure that requires urgent action by the Nigerian government.

“The details of what happens behind locked doors in these shadowy detention facilities must be exposed, and those responsible for any human rights violations brought to book.”

According to the statement, “a large proportion of these deaths are reported to have happened in Giwa military barracks, Maiduguri in Borno State and Sector Alpha, commonly referred to as ‘Guantanamo’ and Presidential Lodge (known as ‘Guardroom’) in Damaturu,Yobe State.

“According to former detainees interviewed by Amnesty International, people died on an almost daily basis in both Giwa and Sector Alpha from suffocation or other injuries due to overcrowding, and starvation. Some suffered serious injuries due to severe beating and eventually died in detention due to lack of medical attention and treatment.

“These interviews also revealed that in some cases detainees in these facilities might have been extra-judicially executed. Some described soldiers taking detainees from their cells threatening to shoot and kill them. In many cases the detainees never returned. Others were reportedly shot in the leg during interrogation, provided no medical care and left to bleed to death.

“Another senior officer in the Nigerian Army who spoke on condition of anonymity told Amnesty International:

“Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation. There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.

“In April 2013 Amnesty International delegates counted 20 emaciated corpses lying on the ground in the compound of the State Specialist Hospital mortuary in Maiduguri. Eyewitnesses said that the bodies had been deposited by the JTF. Several other sources told Amnesty International that the same mortuary received a daily delivery of bodies by the JTF. They reportedly remain there until the mortuary is full and are then taken away for burial by Borno State Environmental Protection Agency (BOSEPA). Information received by Amnesty International indicates that post-mortem examinations are not carried out at the mortuary or elsewhere.

“International standards, as well as Nigerian laws, require that deaths in custody must be investigated thoroughly and impartially,” said Lucy Freeman. “Detainees have human rights and these must be respected in all instances.”

“In many parts of northern Nigeria hundreds of people accused of having links to Boko Haram have been arbitrarily detained by the JTF. Many have been detained incommunicado for lengthy periods without charge or trial, without being brought before any judicial authority, and without access to lawyers and families,” the statement added.