Report says accused Nigeria children enduring harsh treatment

A new report Tuesday said thousands of Nigerian children are being held in squalor conditions as the terrorist group Boko Haram preys on them to participate in violent activity.

Children attend school in the town of Banki, Nigeria, in 2017 after the military recaptured it from Boko Haram. Photo courtesy UNICEF

Human Rights Watch said in the report many of the children are being abused and confined for months, and they live in crowded conditions in intense heat with little food.

“Children are being detained in horrific conditions for years, with little or no evidence of involvement with Boko Haram, and without even being taken to court,” Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“Many of these children already survived attacks by Boko Haram. The authorities’ cruel treatment adds to their suffering and victimizes them further.”

The report said from 2013 to March, the Nigerian military held more than 3,600 children. Most were detained at the Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri, a major military detention institution in Borno state.

Authorities arrested the children during military operations, security sweeps, screenings and through informants. The report said, though, many children said they were captured after escaping Boko Haram attacks on their village or while seeking help at refugee camps.

One detainee told HRW he was held for more than two years for selling yams to Boko Haram militants.

The report said Nigeria should release all uncharged children and transfer them to protection authorities or parents, implement handover protocol with the United Nations, allow U.N. monitoring of facilities where children are held and allow children accused of crimes legal representation.

According to the Council of Foreign Relations, some 37,500 people have been killed since 2011 in the conflict between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram, an affiliate of the Islamic State. The military, with help from Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, has removed the group from several provinces.

ByClyde Hughes