Investigation launched after Boko Haram victims 'raped by government officials in refugee camps'

More than two million people have been displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram

Will Worley
Thursday 03 November 2016 23:15
Comments

Police in Nigeria have vowed to investigate reports that refugees from Boko Haram have been raped and sexually exploited by government officials, including policemen.

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international humanitarian monitor, documented over 40 cases of sexual abuse in refugee camps in Maiduguri, Borno state.

The northern Nigerian region has seen extensive violence as the Boko Haram extremist group has waged a bloody insurgency, trying to establish an Islamic state.

Federal police chief Ibrahim Idris said the report had caused him "deep concern" and directed a special panel to conduct a "discreet and unbiased investigation".

Mr Idris said police commanders had been ordered to increase security at the camps to "ensure adequate safety of all IDPs [internally displaced persons] and... that all perpetrators of any criminal act are decisively dealt with in accordance with the law".

"Any act that violates the human dignity of the IDPs" will not be condoned anywhere, he added.

The governor of Borno state has also called for undercover police to patrol the camps.

However, as policemen among the alleged perpetrators, it is unclear how effective this measure will be.

The actions follow an expression of outrage from the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, who said the allegations were "distressing" and promised to investigate them.

Muhammadu Buhari's comments in response to the Human Rights Watch report

Boko Haram’s use of rape as a weapon has been well documented, and the group have also taken thousands of women and girls hostage, sometimes forcing them into marriage.

Around 2.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting and many reside in refugee camps.

Thousands flee Boko Haram to camps in Niger

But the safety of these camps was placed in doubt by the allegations in the HRW report, which said 43 women and girls at seven different sites claimed they were raped by camp leaders, government officials, soldiers and vigilantes. Eight of the victims said they had already escaped from the custody of Boko Haram, where they were forced into marriage with fighters.

Most of the women interviewed by HRW were widowed or orphaned, and some said they were coerced into having sex by officials, who would withhold food, clothing or medicine in exchange for intercourse.

Others said they were drugged and raped or were falsely promised marriage in exchange for sex.

A number of the women said as a result they became pregnant and faced a life of alienation in the camps.

“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them.”

More than 10,000 people have died in since the conflict with Boko Haram began in 2009.

AFP contributed to this report

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in