Thousands of children have been held in recent years by Nigeria’s military in “degrading and inhuman conditions” for alleged association with the Boko Haram armed group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said, calling for their “immediate” release.
The New-York-based rights group, in its report published on Tuesday, said many of the children were held without charge in crammed military barracks and unable to contact the outside world.
“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,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, and one of the report’s authors.
“Many of these children already survived attacks by Boko Haram. The authorities’ cruel treatment adds to their suffering and victimises them further.”
Nigeria’s military denied the allegations in Human Rights Watch’s report, saying in a statement on Monday that the group’s claims “are not only false but capable of undermining the joint efforts of the Armed Forces and other security agencies to restore peace in the North East [Nigeria]”.
Boko Haram has been waging an armed campaign in northeastern Nigeria since 2009, and the conflict has since spread to neighbouring countries.