Concern mounts over rights abuses in regional fight against Boko Haram

boko-haramAmnesty International said the detention of 84 children, for several months in Cameroon, has highlighted concern that the regional campaign against Islamist group, Boko Haram, was leading to rights abuses.

The report came as the Republic of Niger’s National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) denounced a wave of arbitrary detentions under a four-month-old state of emergency to fight Boko Haram.

He commission is a state body made up of lawmakers, civil society figures, magistrates, lawyers and union leaders.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s Deputy Regional Director, on Wednesday in N’Djamina called for the immediate release of the children.

“Some detainees, some as young as five years old, have been tortured to death within the eight months.
He said the children were detained by security forces in a raid in December, on Islamic schools in Cameroon’s Far North Region, which authorities said were Boko Haram training camps.

The Chad Basin countries’ joint offensive has liberated large swathes of territory from Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of civilians in a six-year campaign to carve out an Islamic state.

“There is a real risk of human rights violations in all of the countries threatened by Boko Haram.

“The countries that are also threatened by Boko Haram do not have to repeat the same mistakes and the same errors as Nigeria,” Cockburn said.

He said in Cameroon, there was documentation of a rise in arbitrary arrests by security forces and disappearances, between November and February, following a spike in Boko Haram attacks.

“A senior Cameroon military officer confirmed that more than 1,000 suspects were in various prisons in the north”, he said.

Authorities launched an investigation after 25 Boko Haram suspects were found dead in a prison cell in December.
Cockburn said Cameroon’s government had voiced its commitment to respecting human rights.

“What we need is to see that the commitment is translated to action as soon as possible”, he said.

Meanwhile, Niger’s CNDH said the abrupt evacuation of tens of thousands of people from around Lake Chad following a
Boko Haram attack on April 25 had worsened a humanitarian crisis in the region, leading to loss of life.

Niger said in a report in May that it had detained and charged 643 people for links to Boko Haram under the state of emergency declared in February in the southern region of Diffa.

The CNDH report said over 38 people freed by the courts were still being held.

“Lots of the people detained in Diffa are innocent. Now they have spent months in prison with members of Boko Haram and may come out radicalised,’’ it said.

The report stressed that Moussa Tchangari, human rights campaigner, was jailed for 10 days.

It said he still faced a possible death penalty on charges of jeopardising national defence after he published a report in May criticising rights abuses during the forced evacuation.

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