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Babies dying in Nigerian military detention, says Amnesty

Published 11/05/2016

Woman and children detained by the Nigerian army at Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri (AP)
Woman and children detained by the Nigerian army at Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri (AP)

Babies and children are among scores of people dying in military detention at a notorious Nigerian barracks where soldiers illegally hold suspected Islamic extremists, Amnesty International says.

Many detainees at Giwa barracks may have died from disease, hunger, dehydration and gunshot wounds, the London-based human rights organisation said, quoting witnesses, including former detainees, supported by video and photographic evidence.

The barracks is in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Nigeria's homegrown Boko Haram Islamic extremists. The city is now the headquarters for the Nigerian military's campaign against Boko Haram.

"The discovery that babies and young children have died in appalling conditions in military detention is both harrowing and horrifying," and comes despite repeated alarms over the high death rate of detainees in Giwa, said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty's advocacy director for Africa.

Amnesty has previously said that President Muhammadu Buhari has not kept promises he made days after his inauguration in May last year to investigate the alleged abuses at Giwa.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar called Amnesty's report "a distraction".

"Our duty is to protect lives and that is what we have been doing," he said.

The Associated Press reported in 2013 that 3,000 detainees had died at Giwa in two months, according to mortuary records.

Today, detainee bodies are being buried in unmarked mass graves, Amnesty reported. It called for Nigeria's government to shut the facility.

The report said 149 people, including 11 children under the age of six, have died at Giwa this year. Among them were four babies who apparently died of untreated measles. Detaining children, with or without their parents, is common in Nigeria.

The number of people detained is unknown. Amnesty has reported that troops arbitrarily arrested 20,000 people between 2013 and 2014.

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