It’s been a year since Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in northeast Nigeria, an incident that brought international condemnation of the group. However, Amnesty International says that’s only a fraction of the women and girls abducted since the start of 2014.
The human rights organization has issued a new report alleging that since January of last year, Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls, forcing them into slavery or the military, and has killed approximately 5,500 civilians.
The grim accounting appear in the 90-page report, " 'Our Job Is to Shoot, Slaughter and Kill': Boko Haram’s Reign of Terror in Northeast Nigeria." It's based on 200 witness accounts, including interviews with nearly 30 women and girls who escaped from Boko Haram.
"The abduction of 276 girls from Chibok was just one case amongst many," said Daniel Eyre, Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher. "What our report shows is that many of these girls and women have been tortured. They’ve been raped. Forced into marriage with Boko Haram members. And some have even been trained as fighters by Boko Haram. Now these are war crimes and crimes against humanity and we’re calling for them to be investigated."
One case cited in the report concerns Aisha, 19, who was abducted from a friend’s wedding last September.
Eyre said she was "taken by Boko Haram fighters to Gullak in Adamawa state, where she was held for three months in a makeshift camp. She was repeatedly raped, and sometimes by groups of men. She told us in one case up to six men attacked her. And during her time there, she was also trained to shoot guns and also how to use bombs," he said.
Then there’s the case of a 15-year-old boy, who was not killed by Boko Haram because he has a disability, Eyre said.
"He’d been in the town of Bama in Borno state, which was under Boko Haram control for about five months," he continued. There, the militants "had allegedly found 10 people and convicted them of adultery. And this boy I spoke to had been forced, along with others, to stone these 10 people to death."
The targets reportedly were buried up to their necks and rocks were thrown at their heads, Eyre said. "The bodies were left for several days afterwards. [The boy] told us that they were just there covered in stones, decomposing."
In one of many reported atrocities, witnesses say 100 men were killed in the town of Madagali last December. Many were said to have had their throats cut for refusing to join Boko Haram.
The Amnesty International report said there are growing tensions between Muslims and Christians in northern Nigeria. It said many Christians believe Muslims have informed on their whereabouts to Boko Haram. Militants have targeted Christians, who’ve refused to convert to Islam and have destroyed churches. But they’ve also killed many moderate Muslims.
Boko Haram has labeled many Christians and Muslims as “unbelievers.” Amnesty wants Boko Investigated for the crime of persecution. It said many of those abducted are forced to adhere to Boko Haram’s strict religious customs.
Eyre said, “Men were required to allow their beards and hair to grow. They had to wear trousers that didn’t touch the floor so that they would be pure for prayers. And women weren’t allowed to move around freely outside. And these rules were quite strictly enforced. We’ve got testimony from people who witnessed floggings and even executions of people that didn’t follow these rules.”
The multi-national military offensive underway in northeastern Nigeria has driven Boko Haram from many major towns and villages. But Eyre said the group is still able to attack and kill.
The Amnesty International report makes a number of recommendations.
First, it's calling for Boko Haram to "end its campaign of violence against civilians – and to release all the people, all the civilians ... living in areas under its control," Eyre said.
The right group also is asking Nigeria's government to do more to protect civilians in the northeast, to improve access to humanitarian aid, and "to investigate and to prosecute people responsible for these war crimes and crimes against humanity that we’ve documented," he said.
Amnesty International has asked the International Criminal Court to consider its findings as part of the ICC’s preliminary examination in northeast Nigeria.