IMF Loans Equatorial Guinea $280m Despite Controversy

The International Monetary Fund, is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.

 

The International Monetary Fund has extended a 280-million-dollar loan to oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, despite protests by rights monitors who cited sweeping misrule and corruption in the central African country.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam had opposed the loan until the government of the country, ruled with an iron fist by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema for four decades, cleaned up its act.

“The arrangement is intended to support the authorities’ three-year economic program, which aims at further reducing macroeconomic imbalances and addressing financial sector vulnerabilities; improving social protection and human capital development; promoting economic diversification; and fostering good governance, increasing transparency and fighting corruption,” an IMF statement said Thursday.

About $40.4 million of the total will be disbursed immediately and the remainder over a three-year period, the Washington-based lender said.

IMF deputy managing director Tao Zhang said: “In recent years, the Equatoguinean economy has been impacted by a sharp decline in oil prices and a secular decline in hydrocarbon output, which led to large macroeconomic imbalances and negative economic growth.

“The economy has also been affected by longstanding governance and corruption problems.

“While the authorities have taken steps to address these challenges, a more comprehensive approach is needed to tackle them effectively and achieve sustainable and inclusive growth,” Tao said.

“The IMF loan should force Equatorial Guinea to undertake deep reforms in the way the country exploits its natural resources,” said Sarah Saadoun, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“A slew of international lawsuits for corruption have been filed against the son of the president, who holds the post of vice-president”, added Tutu Alicante, the head of a local NGO called EG Justice.

Vice President Teodorin Obiang Nguema is notorious for his free-spending lifestyle and his multi-million-dollar mansions strewn across the world in some of the world’s most expensive areas.

Rights groups accuse President Obiang of ruthlessly clamping down on the opposition and institutional corruption.

Despite its oil wealth, the vast majority of the population live in dire poverty.

 

AFP

HRW Accuses Iran Of ‘Covering Up’ Deaths During Crackdown

 

The Human Rights Watch accused Iran on Wednesday of “deliberately covering up” deaths and arrests during a crackdown on demonstrations this month.

Protests broke out across sanctions-hit Iran on November 15, hours after a sharp fuel price hike was announced.

Reports of deaths and arrests emerged as security forces were deployed to rein in demonstrations which turned violent in some areas, with dozens of banks, petrol pumps and police stations torched.

Iranian officials have blamed the street violence on the intervention of “thugs” backed by royalists and Iran’s arch-enemies — the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The extent of the crackdown remains unclear, however, primarily due to an internet outage that was imposed during the unrest.

HRW charged that Iranian authorities were “deliberately covering up the scale of the mass crackdown against protesters” and called on them to “immediately announce the number of deaths, arrests and detentions”.

The group’s deputy Middle East director, Michael Page, criticised Iran for having so far “refused to provide an accurate death toll and instead threatened detainees with death”.

London-based Amnesty International has estimated more than 140 people were killed in the protests.

Iranian officials have confirmed that five people were killed and have so far announced about 500 arrests, including of some 180 “ringleaders”.

“Keeping families in the dark about the fate of their loved ones while ratcheting up an atmosphere of fear and retribution is a deliberate government strategy to stifle dissent,” Page said.

‘Vicious Circle’

Tensions between Tehran and Washington spiked in May last year when the US unilaterally withdrew from an international accord that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

The United States said Tuesday it had received thousands of messages from Iran about protests after appealing to demonstrators to defy restrictions on the internet.

“We’ve received to date nearly 20,000 messages, videos, pictures, notes of the regime’s abuses through Telegram messaging services,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, referring to the encrypted app.

Mansoureh Mills, a researcher for Amnesty, told AFP the group had set up channels on Twitter and Telegram for people inside Iran and that it had received videos of riot police smashing up shop windows and cars.

Mills said the protesters took to the streets out of desperation, adding that “they can’t get a job, they can’t feed their families”.

This would periodically spark more protests and more crackdowns, she said, adding that “it’s like a vicious circle”.

Mills said Amnesty was most concerned about the death toll and the fate of arrested protesters.

Iranian authorities, she said, had a history of holding people incommunicado.

“They threaten them and they obtain these forced confessions, and then they broadcast confessions and they use them at trial to convict them,” said Mills.

“Unfortunately we fear that this is what is going to happen with these protestors.”

Israel To Expel Human Rights Watch Director Over Boycott Claims

US citizen Omar Shakir, the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) director for Israel and the Palestinian territories waves from a car in Jerusalem on November 25, 2019. Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP

 

 

Israel was set to expel the country director of Human Rights Watch on Monday after a lengthy court battle over claims he supports a boycott of the Jewish state.

US citizen Omar Shakir, the New York-based rights group’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, denies the claims and accuses the Israeli government of seeking to suppress dissent.

Shakir’s deportation, expected in the afternoon, would be the first from inside the country under Israel’s controversial 2017 law allowing the expulsion of foreigners who support a boycott, according to authorities.

The European Union, United Nations, and others have criticised the looming expulsion, with the UN warning of a “shrinking space for human rights defenders to operate” in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

But the United States, Israel’s closest ally, declined to do so, saying Sunday only that it supported freedom of expression.

The rights group said Shakir would continue in his position despite being expelled, working from neighbouring Jordan.

– ‘Boycott support’ –

Israel refused to extend Shakir’s work permit in May 2018 after parliament passed a law mandating the expulsion of foreign supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

BDS activists call for a broad-ranging embargo of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.

Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism. Activists strongly deny this and compare it to the economic isolation that helped bring down apartheid in South Africa.

Shakir, who started in the HRW Israel post in 2017, appealed but Israel’s supreme court backed the government’s decision earlier this month.

The case against Shakir was initially based on statements he had made supporting a boycott before joining HRW.

But the government also highlighted work he did with rights groups, including criticising Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“The Israeli government pretends it is only deporting Omar Shakir and that it is not penalising Human Rights Watch,” its executive director Ken Roth told AFP Sunday.

“But in fact, it is deporting him for the core message of Human Rights Watch with respect to the settlements.”

More than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, communities considered illegal under international law.

Israel disputes this, and the United States last week broke with decades of international consensus and announced it no longer considered the settlements illegal.

Roth contended that US President Donald Trump’s support for Israel’s fellow right-wing government had emboldened it to crack down on human rights groups.

“It is hard to imagine Omar’s deportation going ahead if the US government hadn’t given a kind of implicit green light,” he told AFP.

The US embassy said only it had raised Shakir’s case with Israel and that it supports “freedom of expression.”

“At the same time, our strong opposition to boycotts and sanctions of the State of Israel is well known,” it said.

– ‘Move backfired’ –

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which led the campaign to expel Shakir, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The right-wing group NGO Monitor meanwhile charged that HRW’s record was anti-Israel.

“It’s the singling out we disagree with,” said Gerald Steinberg, head of the organisation which argues that international organisations put a disproportionate focus on Israel and the Palestinians.

“They are not saying ‘we disagree with Israeli policy but we believe in the Jewish people’s right to self-determination’,” he said.

“It is about ‘we don’t believe in the Jewish state’s right to exist’,” he argued.

HRW strongly denied the claim.

NGO Monitor provided evidence to the government’s case and Steinberg argued that not renewing a visa was “standard practice” in democracies.

Yet Steinberg admitted that Israel’s move had created negative publicity that helps its critics.

“This is playing into their hands,” he said. “Shakir is milking this, they are going to dance their way out of the airport.”

Roth agreed that Israel’s move had actually intensified scrutiny of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“The world isn’t fooled,” he said. “When you try to censor something, the first thing you do is say ‘well what is it you are trying to censor?'”

DHQ Denies Reports Of Detaining Children As Terrorists In Facilities

boko haram

 

The Defence Headquarters has denied reports that troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria are arbitrarily detaining children in its facilities in the North East.

The DHQ in a statement by it’s Acting Director Defence Information, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu said that children used as suicide bombers by terrorists are arrested, managed and treated as victims of war and not as suspects.

This is a reaction to a report by the Human Rights Watch, accusing the Armed Forces of Nigeria arbitrarily detaining children. The DHQ added that the apprehended children are adequately fed, profiled and de-radicalized before their release, as captured by the civil society group in its report.

“It is an established fact that Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) indoctrinate women and children who they use as suicide bombers in the theatre of operations. In the conduct of their operations, troops arrest these children while attempting to detonate explosives and provide tacit support to insurgents such as intelligence on troops’ movement and deployments.

“Contrary to HRW claims, however, the AFN manages children in the North East theatre as victims of war and not as suspects. Apprehended children are kept in secured places, where they are adequately fed, profiled and de-radicalized before their release.”

READ ALSO: Xenophobic Attacks: Buhari Orders Immediate Voluntary Evacuation Of Nigerians From South Africa

The statement added that only profiled Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists are held in detention pending their prosecution by appropriate prosecuting agencies.

It also stated that another set of children are the ones found with some adult female Boko Haram terrorists arrested in terrorists’ enclaves during combat, and in such cases, the women opt to keep their children rather than hand them over to relations.

“While the female terrorists are kept in the detention facility, their children are given protected care in a welfare holding facility, not a detention facility, where they could be accessed by their mothers under supervision by female personnel. The children are provided with regular feeding, clothing, requisite medical attention, in-house spiritual and educational tutoring and other welfare needs.

“The DHQ, therefore, wishes to state that no children are kept and tortured in any detention facility. The children caught in the act of terrorism are moved to safe facilities such as the Borno State Rehabilitation Centre in Bulunkutu, Maiduguri, and Operation SAFE CORRIDOR, where they are de-radicalized, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society. Those whose families could not be traced are handed over to IDP Camps officials for administration.”

The DHQ also maintained that terrorists and insurgents killed in combat cannot be regarded as extrajudicial killing.

“The AFN is a professional military with extant doctrines and Standard Operating procedures, hence, extrajudicial killing or summary execution is an aberration and not permissible in our operational engagements.”

HRW Condemns Summary Executions In Libya

A migrant holds his head as he stands in a packed room at the Tariq Al-Matar detention centre on the outskirts of the Libyan capital. Photo: TAHA JAWASHI / AFP

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday condemned a series of summary executions of dozens of people in areas of eastern Libya under the control of controversial strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The New York-based watchdog called on Haftar’s Libyan National Army to make good on a promise to investigate the latest killings and to hand over a suspect wanted by the International Criminal Court in connection with previous executions.

Police discovered the bodies of 36 men, all of them executed, near Al-Abyar, 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Libya’s second city Benghazi, on October 26.

Two days later, Haftar ordered the military prosector to investigate but no findings have been announced and no suspects have been detained.

“The LNA’s pledges to conduct inquiries into repeated unlawful killings in areas under their control in eastern Libya have so far led nowhere,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Eric Goldstein.

“The LNA will be condoning apparent war crimes if their pledge to investigate the gruesome discovery in Al-Abyar proves to be another empty promise,” he added.

A local security official told AFP at the time that the bodies found in Al-Abyar belonged to suspected jihadists, 19 of them foreigners.

Human Rights Watch said it had reviewed multiple lists containing a total of 25 names of men found at Al-Abyar, but could not verify which were civilians and which, if any, were fighters affiliated with forces opposing the LNA.

However, it cited relatives of six of the dead as saying that they were civilians who had been taken from their homes by armed men in front of family members.

The Al-Abyar killings were the latest in a series of summary executions in areas of eastern Libya under Haftar’s control over the past two years.

In August, ICC judges issued an arrest warrant for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, a commander of the the Benghazi-based Al-Saiqa brigade, on suspicion of involvement in war crimes including executions of 33 people.

Werfalli is accused of having ordered or personally carried out seven executions between March and July this year and in June 2016 that were filmed and posted to social media sites.

The LNA has said Werfalli is already in custody and will be tried by a military tribunal.

Libya has been wracked by lawlessness ever since the NATO-backed overthrow of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

It has two rival administrations — a UN-backed government based in the capital Tripoli and a rival one backed by Hafar in the east.

AFP

HRW Asks Nigeria To Compensate Victims Of Military Bombing

Photo Credit: Reuters
Photo Credit: Reuters

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked the Nigerian Government to “compensate victims of the Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camp in the northeast” who were mistakenly bombed by a military jet.

The attack took place on Tuesday near the border with Cameroon, where the military engaged in what it called its ‘final push against Boko Haram’.

A senior researcher at the HRW in Nigeria, Mausi Segun, said that “prompt, adequate and effective compensation” was needed, even though there was no evidence of a willful attack on the camp.

She added that the “Victims should not be denied redress merely because the government decided the bombing was accidental”.

The military had insisted that the incident did not occur in an IDPs’ camp as reported in some quarters, but a settlement said to be occupied by civilians.

The spokesman for the military, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, who confirmed the incident to Channels Television, admitted that it was an error deeply regretted by the military.

He explained that soldiers got information of movement of Boko Haram members and deployed ground troops and air cover to tackle the terrorists before the unfortunate occurrence took place.

The military has continued clearance operations in the northeast after it sacked Boko Haram members from their Sambisa forest haven.

It had asked residents of the region to be more vigilant, as fleeing Boko Haram members could infiltrate their communities.

Lawmakers Blame Poor Policy, Coordination for IDPs Crisis

The National Assembly says the current crisis in the management of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in Nigeria is a fallout from poor policy thrusts from government and absence of proper coordination of stakeholders in the sector.

The Chairman, House Committee on IDPs Refugees and Initiatives on the Northeast, Rep Sani Zorro, said this while speaking with journalists in Osogbo, the Osun state capital.

Zorro said that proper coordination has been discovered to be missing in the operations and management of the IDP camps which has opened doors for an all-comers affairs in the sector.

This, he said, has resulted to negative activities which has placed the country in bad perception globally.

According to Zoro “if policies were to be available, that policy would have clearly spelled out the roles, responsibilities and obligations of state institutions, nongovernmental organisations and so on.

“That will make it easier for everybody to operate within the space available; but now it is free for all, there is no coordination, and there is no communication among all the actors in the humanitarian Sector.”

He believes “there is also no effective collaboration among agencies of government and that is why you hear about abuses in the camp, you hear about corruption like diversion of food items meant for IDPs”.

“We have investigated and visited camps to ascertain the extent of this unfortunate situation.

“The recent report by Human Rights Watch which says there are cases of rape, unwanted pregnancies and general abuses of displaced persons, especially women, now I have read the report very carefully and I endorsed it but there are some explanations that need to be tendered, which probably the Human Rights Watch didn’t consider.‎

“Peculiarities in terms of culture and tradition need to be taken into account. What can constitute an abuse in one country may not be considered so in some other environment because of the tradition,” he said.

He, however, affirmed that steps would be taken on revising the security and operational setups across the IDP camps.

“They have taken their time to investigate. We have not only recognised the content of the report, we are working hard to address them,‎” he said.

China Passes New Law To Tighten Cyber Security

China, cyber securityChina, on Monday, passed a law to further tighten cyber security, a decision which has raised concerns that it could intensify already wide-ranging Internet censorship.

The new rules, which were approved by the country’s rubber-stamp parliament and will go into effect next summer, are part of a broader effort to better define how the internet is managed inside China’s borders.

Business groups, in August, had petitioned the Government to have a rethink on the proposed cyber security law, saying that it would hurt foreign companies and further separate the country from the internet.

Officials on the other hand, say the rules would help stop cyber attacks and help prevent acts of terrorism, while critics have argued that it would only further erode internet freedom.

Restrictions on the flow of data across borders “provide no security benefits but will create barriers to Chinese as well as foreign companies operating in industries where data needs to be shared internationally,” James Zimmerman, Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, wrote in an emailed statement.

He added that by creating such restrictions, China risked isolating itself technologically from the rest of the world.

Also contained in the law, individual users are expected to register their real names to use messaging services in China.

Human Rights Watch said on Monday, that it was concerned about several aspects of the law, including that it calls for real-name registration for users of Chinese instant messaging services.

“The already heavily censored internet in China needs more freedom, not less,” the group’s China Director, Sophie Richardson, wrote in a statement.

“Despite widespread international concern from corporations and rights advocates for more than a year, Chinese authorities pressed ahead with this restrictive law without making meaningful changes.”

The law, however, is an important statement from Beijing on how the internet should be run: with tighter controls over companies and better tracking of individual citizens.

Referring to it as a “basic law,” Chen Jihong, a partner at the Zhong Lun law firm in Beijing, stated that the rules were set up to deal with the growing number of legal issues regarding the Chinese internet and to seek to strike a balance between privacy and security.

Sexual Harassment: Shettima To Request Detectives In IDPs’ Camps

Kashim Shettima, Borno, IDPs, Sexual HarassmentBorno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, says he plans to request for the deployment of female and male undercover detectives to all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the state.

Following recent report of the Human Rights Watch that some government officials sexually harass female IDPs in camps, Governor Shettima believes the detectives can spy on the culprits and bring them to book.

He made the disclosure on Tuesday during at a meeting with a delegation from the National University Commission on tour of ongoing infrastructure at the proposed Borno State University in Maduguri, in northeastern
Nigeria.

The governor plans to write to the Inspector General of Police, the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

He was hopeful that deployment of undercover agents would be a permanent measure in addition to the urgent need for investigation of the report by the Human Rights Watch.

IDPs
Female internally displaced persons

The agency, in its report ‎released days ago, claimed some female IDPs it interviewed said they were sexually harassed by some security officials, to the extent of getting them pregnant.

“Today, as Governor of Borno State, there is no issue that gives me headache like the unfortunate bye-products of IDP camps. Our citizens were violently sent out of their houses and communities. It is their fundamental rights to be provided alternative accommodation with their food and health catered for.

“Sadly and very sadly indeed, the IDPs’ camps have become avenues that horrible stories of sexual slavery, prostitution rings, drug peddling and other social vices are emanating from. Only yesterday (Monday) there was a report by a Human Rights group alleging incidences of sexual abuses by some Federal and State workers in some of the IDP camps. This is highly condemnable.

Wield The Big Stick

“Apart from investigating these claims and arresting culprits which is absolutely necessary, I am going to write letters to the Inspector General of Police, the Director General of the DSS, the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency and may be the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, requesting all of them to deploy female and male undercover detectives to all our camps to permanently spy on anyone involved in sexual harassment, any form of prostitution, drugs trafficking, possible child trafficking and even the allegations of diversion of food items meant for IDPs.

“I would want these detectives to report their findings to their security establishments and whoever is found wanting should be picked up without notifying me so long as there is verifiable evidence to prosecute him or her. Ladies and gentlemen, I am tired of applying the element of persuasion in handling the issues of IDPs, we need to wield the big stick.

DSS, arrested judges,

Consenting To Sexual Advances

“The problem with managing the IDP camp is that you are dealing with a population of two or more local government areas in one location and you cannot imprison them by restricting or stopping them from leaving the IDP camp in the day time.

“When a female IDP leaves the camp in the morning, you cannot be in control of where she goes and who she sees. If she leaves the camp and returns the following day, she may claim to have visited a family member and little can be done. I strongly believe there are cases of sexual harassment but some of the women may be consenting to sexual advances largely due to extreme poverty and loss of value system.

Desperate Situations

“We have to instil sanity into the IDPs’ camps and I hope we will not end up having human rights activists telling us we cannot deploy undercover detectives into IDP camps due to one form of rights violation or the other.

“Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Sexual harassment of female IDPs is a desperate situation. None of us here is beyond becoming an IDP if Allah decrees and none of us would fold arms if his or her daughter is in position to be sexually harassed, so we must act now,” the Governor said.

Shettima added that ‎the history of Borno State had been tainted by the Boko Haram insurgency and lamented that the state was tired of counting deaths and destructions.

Herdsmen, Kaduna, Gunmen

“The Borno story has been painted very badly by the Boko Haram.

“We are even tired of counting the number of deaths, number of those injured, value of private institutions and private property destroyed and the huge number of persons internally displaced,” he said.

HRW Reports Sharp Rise In HIV Prevalence In IDPs Camp

IDPsA report of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) made public on Monday showed that there is a sharp rise in the number of persons requiring treatment for HIV and Sexually transmitted Diseases in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Nigeria’s northeast.

In the report, the HRW quoted a medical health worker in one of the camps, which had 10,000 residents, as saying that the number of persons requiring treatment rose sharply, from about 200 cases when the camp clinic was established in 2014 to more than 500 in July 2016.

Suffering In Silence

The health worker said she believed that many more women could be infected but were ashamed to go to the clinic, and are likely to be suffering in silence without treatment.

“Government officials and other authorities in Nigeria have raped and sexually exploited women and girls displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram,” the group said.

“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,” a senior Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Mausi Segun, said.

“It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them.”

The group said four of the victims were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance.

Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned if they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatisation from other camp residents.

Eight of the victims said they were previously abducted by Boko Haram fighters and forced into marriage before they escaped to Maiduguri, the group further reported.

The group accused the Nigerian government of not doing enough to protect displaced women and girls and ensure that they have access to basic rights and services or to sanction the abusers, who include camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers.

The report was the outcome of an investigation in July, 2016 by the group. It documented sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation, of 43 women and girls living in seven IDPs’ camps in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.

The victims had been displaced from several Borno towns and villages, including Abadam, Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa.

In some cases, the victims had arrived in the under-served Maiduguri camps, where their movement is severely restricted after spending months in military screening camps.

HRW Report: Officials Abusing Displaced Women, Girls

Nigeria: Officials Abusing Displaced Women, Girls
Displaced by Boko Haram and Victims Twice Over

(Abuja, October 31, 2016) – Government officials and other authorities in Nigeria have raped and sexually exploited women and girls displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram, Human Rights Watch said today. The government is not doing enough to protect displaced women and girls and ensure that they have access to basic rights and services or to sanction the abusers, who include camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers.

In late July, 2016, Human Rights Watch documented sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation, of 43 women and girls living in seven internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. The victims had been displaced from several Borno towns and villages, including Abadam, Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa. In some cases, the victims had arrived in the under-served Maiduguri camps, where their movement is severely restricted after spending months in military screening 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.”

Four of the victims told Human Rights Watch that they were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance. Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned if they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatization from other camp residents. Eight of the victims said they were previously abducted by Boko Haram fighters and forced into marriage before they escaped to Maiduguri.

A situational assessment of IDPs in the northeast in July 2016 by NOI Polls, a Nigerian research organization, reported that 66 percent of 400 displaced people in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states said that camp officials sexually abuse the displaced women and girls.

Women and girls abused by members of the security forces and vigilante groups – civilian self-defense groups working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram – told Human Rights Watch they feel powerless and fear retaliation if they report the abuse. A 17-year-old girl said that just over a year after she fled the frequent Boko Haram attacks in Dikwa, a town 56 miles west of Maiduguri, a policeman approached her for “friendship” in the camp, and then he raped her.

“One day he demanded to have sex with me,” she said. “I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon I realized I was pregnant. When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So I was too afraid to report him.”

The Boko Haram conflict has led to more than 10,000 civilian deaths since 2009; the abductions of at least 2,000 people, mostly women and children and large groups of students, including from Chibok and Damasak; the forced recruitment of hundreds of men; and the displacement of about 2.5 million people in northeast Nigeria.

Irregular supplies of food, clothing, medicine, and other essentials, along with restricted movement in the IDP camps in Maiduguri, compounds the vulnerability of victims – many of them widowed women and unaccompanied orphaned girls – to rape and sexual exploitation by camp officials, soldiers, police, members of civilian vigilante groups, and other Maiduguri residents. Residents of the Arabic Teachers Village camp, Pompomari, told Human Rights Watch in July that the camp had not received any food or medicines since late May, just before the start of the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan.

Restricted movement in the camps is contrary to Principle 14.2 of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which provides that internally displaced people have “the right to move freely in and out of camps and other settlements.”

In some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately needed food or other items to have sex with women. A woman in a Dalori camp said residents get only one meal a day. She said she accepted the advances of a soldier who proposed marriage because she needed help in feeding her four children. He disappeared five months later when she told him she was pregnant.

Victims of rape and sexual exploitation may be less likely to seek health care, including psychological counselling, due to the shame they feel. Fewer than five of the 43 women and girls interviewed said they had received any formal counseling after they were raped or sexually exploited. A medical health worker in one of the camps, which has 10,000 residents, said that the number of people requiring treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections has risen sharply, from about 200 cases when the camp clinic was established in 2014 to more than 500 in July 2016. The health worker said she believed that many more women could be infected but were ashamed to go to the clinic, and are likely to be suffering in silence without treatment.

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has direct responsibility for distributing aid, including food, medicine, clothes, and bedding, as well as managing the camps. Its national counterpart, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), supplies raw food and other materials for internally displaced people to the state agency under a memorandum of understanding.

Aid workers have warned since early 2016 that displaced women have been forced to exchange sex for basic necessities and that various elements, including members of the security forces in northeast Nigeria, have been subjecting some of them to sexual and gender-based violence. A Rapid Protection Assessment Report published in May by the Borno State Protection Sector Working Group, made up of national and international aid providers, identified sexual exploitation, rape, and other sexual abuse as major concerns in nearly all 13 camps and several local communities hosting displaced people in and around Maiduguri.

Following his visit to Nigeria in August, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, said Nigeria’s government had “a tendency to downplay the problem of sexual violence and abuse” of internally displaced people. He expressed concern that this tendency “constitutes a hidden crisis of abuse with fear, stigma and cultural factors as well as impunity for perpetrators leading to under-reporting of abuse to the relevant authorities.”

Human Rights Watch wrote to several Nigerian authorities in August requesting comment on the research findings. The minister of women affairs and social development, Senator Aisha Jumai Alhassan, promised in a meeting with Human Rights Watch on September 5 to investigate the allegations and then respond. Her response has not yet been received at time of writing.

“Failure to respond to these widely reported abuses amounts to severe negligence or worse by Nigerian authorities,” Segun said. “Authorities should provide adequate aid in the camps, ensure freedom of movement for all displaced people, safe and confidential health care for survivors, and punish the abusers.”

Victims’ Accounts

Movement Restrictions, Food Shortages Fuel Sexual Abuse

Most of the victims interviewed lived in camps for displaced people. While victims living at the Arabic Teachers’ Village camp said they were allowed to leave the camp for about eight hours daily, victims from other camps said that their movement was severely restricted. The women and girls became victims of rape and sexual exploitation when they accepted offers of friendship or marriage from men in positions of authority.

Rape

A 16-year-old girl who fled a brutal Boko Haram attack on Baga, near the shores of Lake Chad, northern Borno in January 2015, said she was drugged and raped in May 2015 by a vigilante group member in charge of distributing aid in the camp:

He knew my parents were dead, because he is also from Baga. He would bring me food items like rice and spaghetti so I believed he really wanted to marry me. But he was also asking me for sex. I always told him I was too small [young]. The day he raped me, he offered me a drink in a cup. As soon as I drank it, I slept off. It was in his camp room.

I knew something was wrong when I woke up. I was in pain, and blood was coming out of my private part. I felt weak and could not walk well. I did not tell anyone because I was afraid. When my menstrual period did not come, I knew I was pregnant and just wanted to die to join my dead mother. I was too ashamed to even go to the clinic for pregnancy care. I am so young! The man ran away from the camp when he heard I delivered a baby six months ago. I just feel sorry for the baby because I have no food or love to give him. I think he might die.

An 18-year-old girl from Kukawa, a Borno town 112 miles from Maiduguri, the state capital, said that a member of Civilian Joint Task Force – a self-defense vigilante group working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram – initially gave her privileges, including passes that allowed her to leave the camp, but then raped her:

The man started with preaching, telling me to be a good Muslim girl and not to join bad groups in the camp. He then sent his mother to propose to me, which convinced me that he was serious. He allowed me to go outside the camp when necessary. When he asked me to visit his newly allocated room in the camp, I didn’t see any reason not to go because I felt safe with him. He gave me a bottle of Zobo [locally brewed non-alcoholic drink] and I immediately felt dizzy and slept off. I don’t know what happened thereafter but when I woke up he was gone and I was in pain and felt wet between my legs. For three days I could not walk properly.

Some weeks later I fell very ill, and was told at the hospital that I was pregnant. Then everyone turned away from me: [He] refused to help me, and my step-mother who I lived with in camp pushed me out, saying I was a disgrace. I reported [him] to the police in camp several times but they have not done anything to him because they work together. Whenever I see him, I wish something terrible will happen to him. It is because of him that I have lost everything. I don’t even think the baby will last because she is always crying and I can’t cope. I pray that God will forgive me for neglecting the baby but I am helpless.

Sexual Exploitation

A 30-year-old woman from Walassa, near Bama, about 43 miles west of Maiduguri, said that she fled into a nearby wooded area after Boko Haram fighters killed her husband and abducted her daughters, ages 12 and 9. She stayed there for three months, hoping to find a way to rescue her daughters, until Nigerian government soldiers arrived in the area and the fighters escaped with their captives:

A few weeks after soldiers transported us to the camp, near Maiduguri, one of the soldiers guarding us approached me for marriage. He used to bring food and clothes for me and my remaining four children, so I allowed him to have sex with me. He is a Hausa man from Gwoza. That is all I know about him. Two months later he just stopped coming. Then I realized I was pregnant. I feel so angry with him for deceiving me. When he was pretending to woo me he used to provide for me, but as soon as I agreed and we began having sex, his gifts began to reduce until he abandoned me. Now my situation is worse as the pregnancy makes me sick, and I have no one to help me care for my children.

A woman from Bama living at the same camp said:

The soldier showed his interest by bringing me food and clothes. He used to wear the green army uniform and carried a gun. I accepted him because I needed help to take care of me and my four children. Feeding in the camp is only once a day so you have to accept any help that comes. We started having sex in my camp tent – my sister who was sharing it with me left – or at night in the open field where soldiers stay in the camp. Five months later when I realized I was pregnant and told him, he stopped coming. I have not seen him since then. I feel so ashamed because my neighbors talk and stare at me. I cry whenever I think about him. I delivered the baby two months ago but he is also suffering – I eat once a day so [am] not producing enough milk to breast feed him well. Things are so bad in the camp, there is not enough water or food.

An 18-year old girl from Baga said when she met a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force in the camp, she felt she could trust him because he is also from Baga:

He took me from the camp to a house on Baga Road so we could meet freely. I stayed with him in that house for about one month. Then I fell ill, and went to a clinic. The people at the clinic asked for the person I was living with, and invited him. That was when they told him I was pregnant, and he accepted the pregnancy. But immediately [when] we came out of the clinic he took me to a man to abort the pregnancy. I refused and he said if I would not abort we should separate. Then I moved to the camp. I gave birth almost a year ago but the man has refused to take responsibility. Some months ago he followed the military to catch Boko Haram far from Maiduguri. Even when he visits his two wives in the camp he never asks for me and my baby. I go outside the camp to beg so that we can survive.

A 25-year-old woman at from Dikwa said that when she fled Boko Haram’s attack on the town, she lived with her brother in a rented apartment in Maiduguri. When he was no longer able to feed her and her three children, he took her to the camp where he handed her over to camp elders. One of these elders, a local government employee – who are often financially better off than most displaced people because they receive salaries – proposed marriage and regularly brought her food and money. But the marriage did not materialize, and he began to shun her when she became pregnant. He continued to ignore her when she delivered twins and asked him for money to pay for her midwife. The woman said:

If I have a gun, I will shoot him. It is because of him that people call me and my babies names. I am so ashamed that I cannot participate in camp activities and keep to myself because of the jeers.

A 17-year-old girl said that a young man she knew took her home to his grandmother when she arrived Maiduguri from Dikwa in mid-2014:

He told me he wanted to marry me, and his grandmother referred to me as her grandson’s wife. I lived with them, cooking and cleaning the house, until a month later when he disappeared for weeks. The grandmother asked me to leave, promising to come to the wedding… It was a lie. I did not know it but I was already pregnant. Maybe she already saw the pregnancy signs and I was too young to understand. I heard the grandson fled the town because he heard I have given birth. Now I have been left alone to fend for the baby. I don’t know if any other member of my family survived the Boko Haram attack on Dikwa.

Restricted Movement

A 32-year-old woman from the Damasak said:

Life is terrible here in this camp. For the past three days we have not eaten because there is no firewood to cook the food. To make it worse, they will not even allow us to go out to fend for ourselves. Most times you have to beg the camp officials to intervene with the guards before they will give you the pass to go out. Why will you refuse if any of those people ask you for marriage? You have to survive.

Another camp resident, a 47-year-old mother of eight from Abadam, a northern Borno town, said:

We used to get food at least twice a day when I first arrived at the camp in 2014. But now, sometimes we get nothing at all. We can’t even buy food ourselves because they will not let us go out. My relatives in the town have to plead with camp officials for hours before the officials will agree to let them give us some money or foodstuff from the little they have.

A 20-year-old widowed mother of one at a camp for displaced people said:

I have been refusing marriage proposals from the men in camp because I see how they are deceiving others. I am just not sure how long I can remain in this situation. The last time I ate was four days ago when the one cup of maize I was given finished. I am suffering because I have no husband or anyone else to assist me.

A 16-year-old single mother of one in the same camp said:

Life is difficult in the camp, hardly enough to eat. There is food but whoever gets it, gets it. We are not allowed to go out to find work or get extra food. Sometimes I go to the kitchen to scrape pots to get something to eat. They distribute tickets, some get tickets and some don’t get. If you don’t get a ticket you get no food. The IDP elders distribute the tickets, so they distribute amongst themselves, they make sure their families get first. Usually distribution of tickets take place at odd times such as at midnight.

If you are not married, you hardly get anything that comes in. Women who have husbands insult us: “If you want to eat in [this camp], you should get married in [the camp] so husbands can get food for you.”

Military Screening Centers

Displaced women from several communities re-captured from Boko Haram by the Nigerian army, including Baga, Bama, and Gwoza, told Human Rights Watch in Maiduguri that the Nigerian military operated screening centers where they interrogated local people to determine how much involvement they had with militants. While some women are screened in a few days, others are interrogated daily for months before being released to a camp. Witnesses said the interviewees were separated by gender, but that male soldiers interrogated everyone.

A woman who escaped her Boko Haram abductors in Sambisa with her three children while four months pregnant described their reception after an eight-hour trek back to her home town of Bama, then under government control:

Soldiers were already back in Bama when we arrived. They took us to a primary healthcare center near the entrance into Bama to search and question us. We thought they would soon let us go, but they locked us with other women (about 20 people) for more than three months. They bring us out one by one every day to ask whether we joined Boko Haram freely or they forced us. Many of us were naked or in rags until about one month later soldiers took us to town to search for clothes among the burnt ruins of houses in the town. I was very ill because of the pregnancy. After the third month passed they drove us in lorries to Maiduguri, and dropped off sick ones like me in the hospital.

A 20-year-old woman who was abducted in Gwoza by Boko Haram, and then escaped, said:

I was three months pregnant from the Boko Haram fighter that raped me when I escaped Gwoza with my three children. Our relief on arriving at Maiduguri after a two-day trek was crushed when soldiers arrested us. They took us to Giwa barracks, where we saw up to 300 other women and children. Soldiers used to question us every day until my children and I were released four months later.

There appears to be at least one other screening center around Maiduguri, Human Rights Watch found. A 17-year-old girl from Dikwa was held in a place she described as “a compound with about five buildings just before you enter Maiduguri proper.” She was allowed to receive visitors for the month she was there before being cleared by the military to enter Maiduguri.

Lack of Mental Health Support for Victims

Many of the women and girls interviewed said that their experiences affected their psychological well-being. Some said they had difficulty sleeping, and deliberately isolated themselves to avoid insults and slurs. Many also said they felt constantly angry with their abusers, wishing they could harm them in retaliation. None said they had professional counselling.

A 30-year-old woman from Gwoza said:

I feel sad all the time. I am always thinking about all the bad things that have happened to me. Sometimes I cry; at other times I try to resign to my fate. But it is hard. My neighbors in the camp encourage me to pray. That is all I can do, pray.

A 16-year-old rape survivor said she was always thinking about death, and wished she had the courage to kill herself:

Nobody comes to this camp to talk to us. We IDPs only have one another, but even that is hard because you do not know who to trust. If you tell them your secret pain or shame, they can use it to mock you later.

A 28-year-old woman who survived rape and became pregnant by a Boko Haram insurgent said she developed hypertension from constantly thinking about her ordeal and imagining ways she could take revenge on him. Doctors have told her during hospital visits outside the camp to stop thinking about the past so she can get better. She was not referred to a counsellor.

Buhari Orders Action On Allegations Of IDP Abuse

Buhari Orders Action On Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Reports On IDP AbusePresident Muhammadu Buhari is worried and shocked by the recently released Human Rights Watch (HRW) report which alleges sexual abuse and exploitation of women and girls in camps for those displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency.

He has therefore ordered an immediate investigation into the allegation.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President, Mr Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement on Monday.

He said that the welfare of these most vulnerable of Nigerian citizens has been a priority of President Buhari’s government and Nigerians and the international community can rest assured that the allegations raised in the HRW are not being taken lightly.

“President Buhari has instructed the Inspector General of Police and the state governors of the affected states to immediately commence investigations into the issue.

“Their findings will determine the next course of action for the government and define an appropriate response.

“While the Nigerian military continues to work hard so that these unfortunate victims of Boko Haram terrorism can soon return safely to their homes, the government will do its best to ensure their protection and welfare in the temporary IDP camps,” the statement read.

The international human rights group, the Human Rights Watch, in a report published on Monday morning, accused Nigerian security officials of raping and exploiting female internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps as a result of Boko Haram’s insurgency.

It also accusing the government of not doing enough to protect affected women or punish the officials involved.

The rights group stated that it documented 43 cases of rape and exploitation of women and girls in several IDP camps in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital in late July.

The group also listed movement restrictions, food shortages as abuses the IDPs have had to face.

The report by the Human Rights Watch is published on Channels TV website.