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Babies dying in Nigeria military camp: Amnesty

11 May 2016 6:45



Amnesty International says some 150 detainees — including babies — have died “in horrendous conditions” at a military detention center for suspected Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria this year.

In a report released on Wednesday, the human rights monitor said that seven young children and four babies were among those who died this year at the Giwa barracks in the city of Maiduguri, many from disease, hunger, dehydration, and gunshots wounds.

“The discovery that babies and young children have died in appalling conditions in military detention is both harrowing and horrifying,” said Netsanet Belay, the Amnesty’s research and advocacy director for Africa.

“We have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the high death rate of detainees in Giwa barracks; but these findings show that, for both adults and children, it remains a place of death,” Belay added.

The report also said that about 1,200 people, one in 10 of them children, are being held at the Giwa barracks, without access to legal aid or a due judicial process.

Amnesty also called for the barracks to be closed immediately and all prisoners released or transferred to civilian authorities.

The Nigerian army has not commented on the report, but had formerly said it has formed a human rights department to study claims of abuse.

Amnesty said last year that almost 7,000 detainees have died in military detention in Nigeria since 2011 due to hunger, thirst, disease, torture and a lack of medical attention.

At least 20,000 people have lost their lives and over 2.5 million become homeless since the beginning of the Boko Haram militancy in Nigeria in 2009. The group has expanded its attacks to neighboring African countries, including Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Nigerian Shia Muslims take to the streets to demand the release of Shia cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky in the city of Kano, December 21, 2015. (Photo by AP)

Massacre of Shia Muslims

In another report in April, Amnesty said the Nigerian army had killed over 350 Shia Muslims last December and dumped their corpses in mass graves to cover up the crime.

On December 12, Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the city of Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him. The Shia Muslims denied the claim.

A day later, Nigerian forces raided the home of Shia cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, who leads the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), and arrested him after killing a number of people attempting to protect him.

Both incidents led to the deaths of hundreds of members of the religious community, including three of Zakzaky’s sons. Some sources have put the toll at over 1,000.

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