AI: Both sides committing war crimes in Nigeria conflict

[JURIST] Extremists and security forces are committing war crimes in northeastern Nigeria's Islamic uprising, resulting in at least 1,500 deaths this year alone, according to a report [text, PDF] published Friday by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. This number equals the total death count [AP report] recorded between 2010 and June 2013, and the report estimated that approximately half of these deaths were civilians. The text details the conflict, elaborating on recent attacks and unlawful killings by the Boko Haram [JURIST news archive]. The report also accuses Nigeria's security forces of reacting to the Boko Haram in ways that seriously conflict with human rights. Furthermore, the advocacy website chastises authorities for allowing impunity and failing to bring perpetrators to justice. The report urges Nigeria to respect the rights detailed in African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [texts]. These texts, along with the International Court of Justice and the UN Human Rights Committee [official websites], have established that human rights are still to be protected even in times of conflict.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is a sin," has been fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state and has warned Christians in the mostly Muslim northern regions to leave the area. In February extremists gunned down numerous students in school, and burned down dormitories [AP report] in the middle of the night after locking the students inside. Last May Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan [JURIST news archive] declared a state of emergency to combat the threat posed by Boko Haram. The group has publicly claimed responsibility for several attacks, including church bombings [Reuters report] on December 25 that killed approximately 40 people in 2011. In January 2012 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged Nigerian leaders from all sectors of society to make a concerted effort to stop the sectarian violence [JURIST report]. The Christmas day bombings were internationally condemned, including being labeled as "senseless violence" by the White House [press release] and acts of "blind hatred" by the Vatican [AP report]. Additionally, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] has previously expressed concern [JURIST report] over acts of ethnic violence by Boko Haram. Specifically, the Office described the group's bombing of a UN building in Nigeria [VOA report] in August 2011 as "cowardly." At least 18 people were killed in the attack.

 

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