Two Reuters reports published on December 7 and December 12 have claimed that the Nigerian Army was involved in forced abortions on women and girls impregnated by Boko Haram fighters and in the intentional killing of children including babies fathered by fighters, young boys who were fighters, or those perceived to be fighters. The reports alleged that children were smothered, poisoned, or shot. Nigerian authorities have denied the reports. However, they follow widespread concerns around the military’s conduct in the fight against Boko Haram and its splinter factions.
Human Rights Watch and other groups have extensively documented abuses against citizens, including women and children, by Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces since the conflict began in 2009. The Nigerian Army has been implicated in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention, and sexual violence, among other abuses.
Authorities have made some flawed efforts to see justice for Boko Haram crimes, but little to nothing has been done concerning crimes by the security forces. A judicial panel was set up in 2017 to investigate humanitarian and human rights violations in the conflict, but its report was never made public.
In a few cases however, the Nigerian authorities have taken concrete actions to protect the rights of victims of the conflict. Following a 2019 Human Rights Watch Report on military detention of children for suspected Boko Haram involvement, over 300 children were released from detention last year. Earlier this year, the authorities also signed an agreement with UNICEF aimed at preventing and reducing military detention of children encountered during military operations and ensuring they are instead handed over to child protection officials.
The Nigerian authorities should deepen this commitment to uphold the rights of victims of atrocities in the conflict by taking genuine and impartial steps to investigate all allegations of abuses, publish their findings and hold all perpetrators accountable, and provide full redress for victims.