Human Rights Watch says the Nigerian insurgent group Boko Haram has killed more than 2,000 people in the first six months of this year. It says the attacks amount to crimes against humanity.
HRW’s West Africa Director Corinne Dufka said Boko Haram is “effectively waging a war on the people of northeastern Nigeria at a staggering human cost.”
“We have documented 95 attacks on 70 towns and villages mostly in northeastern Nigeria.”
There have also been attacks on the capital, Abuja.
Conformation of the 2,053 deaths is based on media reports, human rights groups and others.
Dufka said, “We analyzed these reports looking at again credible reports of morgue workers, local officials, civilians, witnesses, who had seen the bodies buried or registered. And we came up with this figure, which is probably conservative.”
She said that the attacks have dramatically increased since a state of emergency was declared in three northern states. It took effect in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States in May 2013.
The report said there’s also has been a “dramatic increase” this year in casalities from bomb blasts, including suicide bombings.
Dufka said they should be viewed as crimes against humanity.
“Including murder, torture, rape and others that are committed as part of – what we call – a widespread or systematic attack. And we believe that the nature of these attacks – the similarity, the organized nature in which they’re being committed -- suggest that they really are crimes against humanity.”
One of Boko Haram’s most infamous attacks was the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok in April. However, Human Rights Watch said there have been many attacks on schools where male students were often killed. In February, an attack on the Federal Government College in Buni Yadi in Yobe State left 59 boys dead.
Dufka added that Human Rights Watch and others also have documented abuses by Nigerian Security forces. It said these include use of excessive force, arbitrary detention, the burning of homes and the extrajudicial killing of those suspected of supporting Boko Haram.
“The government of Nigeria – regardless of how egregious these attacks are – they have to abide by international law when responding to them,” she said.
She said the Nigerian government must not only protect the population against Boko Haram attacks, but also security forces that may operate outside the law.