The death toll in the bloody conflict between the Federal Government and the Boko Haram sect has claimed more than 1,500 lives in the north-east of the country, amid increased war crimes and crimes against humanity in the region.
According to the human rights group, Amnesty international, more than 1,500 lives have been lost in the conflict in only the first three months of 2014.
The group claims the soaring number of deaths, more than half of whom are civilians is as a result of an increase in attacks by the Boko Haram and uncontrolled reprisals by Nigeria’s security forces.
In a strong worded briefing published yesterday, the group says the escalation of violence in the north east in 2014 has developed into a situation of “non-international armed conflict”, in which all parties are violating international humanitarian law.
“We urge the international community to ensure prompt, independent investigations into acts that may constitute war crimes and crime against humanity,” said Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director for Africa at Amnesty International.
“More than 1,500 deaths in three months indicate an alarming deterioration in the situation. The international community cannot continue to look the other way in the face of extrajudicial executions, attacks on civilians and other crimes under international law being committed on a mass scale,” Belay added.
In its documentation of the killings carried out in January, February and March 2014 by both Boko Haram and the Nigerian Security Forces, Amnesty highlights 14 March as a tipping point when the security forces unleashed a brutal crackdown on former detainees. The group said civilians were the ones paying a heavy price as the cycle of violations and reprisals gather momentum.
More than half of the killings have been carried out by members of the Islamist armed group Boko Haram, including scores of schoolchildren who have been the victims of deliberate attacks.
According to Bely, the scale of atrocities carried out by Boko Haram is “truly shocking” but couldn’t be used to justify the brutality of the response that is clearly being meted out by the Nigerian security forces.
Amnesty International has pieced together a partial timeline of events following the 14 March 14 attack in Maiduguri. The evidence is based on interviews with residents, lawyers, human rights campaigners, and hospital staff across the city as well as satellite imagery showing three possible mass graves in one area of Maiduguri.
Amnesty called on the African Commission and the United Nations (UN) to assist Nigeria in investigating acts that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces, “given Nigeria’s apparent unwillingness and inability to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of these crimes”.