The Human Rights Watch has described continuous killings of innocent civilians by the Boko Haram sect as a crime against humanity, even as it revealed that over 2,053 civilians in an estimated 95 attacks were killed in the first half of 2014.
According to Corinne Dufka, West Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, the figures are based on detailed analyses of media reports as well as field investigations.
She said the killings and other abuses were part of widespread attacks on civilians in over 70 towns and villages in north-eastern Nigeria, the federal capital, Abuja, among others.
“There has been a dramatic increase during 2014 in the numbers of casualties from bomb blasts, including several apparent suicide bombings. Since January, at least 432 people have been reported killed in 14 blasts in crowded marketplaces, a brothel, a technical college, and, on two occasions, places where people were watching soccer matches.
“Three of these attacks were in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital; two in Kano; two in Jos, the Plateau state capital; and three in Abuja, the federal capital. The Abuja attacks may demonstrate a southward trend of Boko Haram operations.
“Boko Haram is effectively waging war on the people of north eastern Nigeria at a staggering human cost”.
The international non-governmental organization, which conducts research and advocacy on human rights, noted that, “atrocities committed as part of a widespread attack on civilians are crimes against humanity, for which those responsible need to be held to account”.
It further said the bulk of the attacks and casualties credibly reported and investigated by Human Rights Watch, took place in Borno State, the origin of Boko Haram, where 1,446 people died.
“Attacks killed 151 in Adamawa state and 143 civilians in Yobe state. Human Rights Watch compiled the figures by analysing credible local and international media reports, and the findings of human rights groups, as well as interviewing witnesses and victims of numerous attacks”, they said.
The reports by the rights watchers generally quoted villagers, hospital and morgue workers, police and military officials, and local leaders, who had observed, registered, counted or buried the dead.
“In the vast majority of cases, Boko Haram forces appeared to deliberately target civilians.
“Since 2009, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, Nigeria’s Islamist insurgency popularly known as Boko Haram, has waged a violent campaign against the government to impose its authority under Sharia (Islamic) law.
“Widespread poverty, corruption, security force abuses, and longstanding impunity for a range of crimes have created a fertile ground in Nigeria for militant armed groups like Boko Haram.
“No matter how egregious the violence, Nigerian security forces engaged in operations against Boko Haram may not operate outside the law.
“The Nigerian government should recognize that it needs to protect its population both from Boko Haram and from abusive members of its own military and police”, Dufka said.