Nigerian security forces have committed massive rights violations including summary executions as they battle to crush the deadly insurgency being waged by Islamist group Boko Haram, Amnesty International charged on Thursday.
A report by the London-based rights group accused Nigeria’s military of showing “little regard for the rule of law or human rights” in its campaign against the extremists.
“You cannot protect people by abusing human rights and you cannot achieve security by creating insecurity,” Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty said at the launch of the report in Nigeria’s capital.
Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency is estimated to have left more than 2,800 people dead since 2009, including killings by security forces.
Nigeria has sent in special military units to several areas hit hardest by the group, including the northeastern city of Maiduguri, considered the Islamists’ home base.
“Amnesty International received consistent accounts of witnesses who saw people summarily executed outside their homes, shot dead during operations, after arrest, or beaten to death in detention or in the street by security forces in Maiduguri,” the report said.
Witnesses also described unarmed people who were lying down being “shot at close range by the security forces”.
Residents of Maiduguri have previously accused soldiers of firing on by-standers after suspected Boko Haram attacks.
“This isn’t the first time such allegations are levelled against us. We have repeatedly denied such allegations and still stand by our word,” Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, the military spokesman in Maiduguri, told reporters.
“Lesser human rights infractions and abuses by our troops that do not involve killing are being addressed,” he added.
Shetty said Amnesty had received “mixed” reactions from government officials in meetings before the report was issued.
National security staff offered to investigate certain allegations, while other officials who Shetty did not name “denied that any of the facts that we have put on the table need to be investigated”.
Amnesty said Boko Haram’s relentless targeting of civilians “may constitute crimes against humanity,” but urged Nigeria “to take responsibility for its own failings” in combatting the insurgents, who have said they want to create an Islamic state in the north.
Oil-rich Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is roughly divided between a mainly north and mostly Christian south.