The Federal Government has been ordered by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) to free thousands of children held by the military over alleged ties with Boko Haram.
In a fifty paged report released yesterday (September 9), in Abuja, the global watchdog of the United States stated that thousands of children have been subjected to inhumane treatments in military prisons, especially in Giwa barracks, situated in the northeastern part of Maiduguri.
“Many children are held without charge for months or years in squalid and severely overcrowded military barracks, with no contact with the outside world,” it said.
Culled from a report released by the United Nations, from January 2013 and March 2019, a total of 3,600 children have been detained in military prisons.
“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 for HRW.
“Many of these children already survived attacks by Boko Haram. The authorities’ cruel treatment adds to their suffering and victimizes them further,” he said.
Although agreeing that Nigeria was currently battling with the insurgent attacks, Becker, however, held that detaining thousands of children was not the way forward.
According to him, rather than getting imprisoned, the children need rehabilitation and school.
The HRW further demanded that the Nigerian government appends the UN protocol to enable the transfer of the detained children to child protection units so that they can receive rehabilitation, family reunification, and community reintegration.
“If military or intelligence authorities have credible evidence of criminal offenses by children, they should transfer them to civilian judicial authorities to be treated in accordance with national and international juvenile justice standards,” it said.
According to the statement, 32 children detained at Giwa barracks were interviewed in June 2019, they all attested to not been taken to court, as required by law.
“None were aware of any charges against them. One was detained when he was only five years old,” it said.