Detainees 'shot, left to bleed to death' in Nigeria
15 October 2013, 15:23
Lagos - Hundreds of people are dying in military detention
as Nigeria's security forces crack down on an Islamic uprising in the
northeast, Amnesty International said on Tuesday. Some people are shot outright,
some starve and others suffocate to death, it said.
"Others were reportedly shot in the leg during
interrogations, provided no medical care and left to bleed to death," the
London-based human rights group said in a new report that includes testimony
from freed detainees.
More than 950 people died in military custody in the first
six months of this year, according to "credible information" from a
senior Nigerian army officer, it said. If true, that would mean that Nigeria's
military has killed more civilians than the extremists during the first half of
Amnesty International called for an urgent investigation.
But Nigeria's security forces are notorious for extrajudicial killings,
according to rights groups and witnesses.
Two military spokesmen did not immediately respond to emails
and phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday, a public holiday as Muslims celebrate
the feast of Eid al-Adha.
The killings and deaths documented by Amnesty International
may help answer questions raised by an Associated Press report in August that
detailed how hundreds of detainees have gone missing since the government imposed
a state of emergency 14 May on three north-eastern states that cover one-sixth
The AP report said hundreds of people were being rounded up,
often indiscriminately, in night raids. It said distraught relatives, human
rights organizations and journalists have asked the army, the police,
intelligence services and government officials where the arrested people are,
but answers have not been provided.
Human rights activist Shehu Sani of the northern-based
Nigerian Civil Rights Congress said he believes thousands are detained.
In an atmosphere of deep suspicion and fear, it is easy for
people to settle personal grudges by identifying someone as a suspected
Amnesty International said those killed all were detained as
suspected members or associates of the Boko Haram terrorist network that has
claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed hundreds of Muslim and
Christian civilians this year in their mission to overturn democracy and force
Nigeria to become an Islamic state. This West African nation, Africa's biggest
oil producer and most populous of some 160 million people, is almost equally
divided between the predominantly Muslim north and mainly Christian south.
Most deaths recorded by Amnesty took place at the
Presidential Lodge guardroom and a detention centre in Damaturu, and at Giwa
Military Barracks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the birthplace
of Boko Haram.
An AP reporter who was in Maiduguri saw military ambulances
arriving at the mortuary of the main hospital in Maiduguri on an almost daily
"Hundreds have been killed in detention either by
shooting them or by suffocation. People are crammed into one cell. There are
times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed," Amnesty
International quoted a second senior army officer as saying.
It said Amnesty International delegates in Maiduguri in
April counted about 20 corpses on the ground outside the state hospital
mortuary. "There were no visible gunshot wounds on the bodies. They looked
emaciated." Witnesses told the group that the bodies were deposited by
Shadowy detention facilities
It said several different sources said that when the
mortuary is filled, bodies are taken away by the Borno State Environmental
Protection Agency and buried in the cemetery.
"This is a staggeringly high figure that requires
urgent action by the Nigerian government," said Lucy Freeman, Amnesty's
deputy Africa director. "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."
Local and international human rights activists warned when
thousands of troops were deployed in May that abuses by the military could help
fuel the rebellion.
Civilians in northeast Nigeria and refugees among more than
30 000 who have fled to Cameroon, Chad and Niger have told AP reporters that
they fear Nigeria's military as much as they do Boko Haram. They described
soldiers attacked by the militants as avenging themselves on civilians.
In one of the worst cases, in mid-April, security forces
attacked by Boko Haram at the fishing village of Baga turned their guns on
civilians after the militants fled. Witnesses told the AP that 187 civilians
were killed by security forces who razed the village.
The military said 37 civilians were killed. There has been
no investigation and no repercussions for the perpetrators.