In early March, Nigeria agreed – with Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin – to send an 8,700-strong regional “Multinational Joint Task Force” (MNJTF) to fight Boko Haram which has killed thousands in northeastern Nigeria and has carried out attacks in some neighboring countries.
In 2014, Watchlist documented grave child rights violations including recruitment and use of children by Boko Haram and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force as well as detention of children suspected or found to be associated with Boko Haram.
Watchlist urges Nigeria and other countries participating in the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to ensure protection and legal safeguards for children encountered during conflict. The MNJTF should establish clear policies and protocols for the identification, treatment, and transfer to child protection civilian actors of children below the age of 18, who are suspected or found to be affiliated with Boko Haram. Special attention should be given to the initial period of military custody where children should be separated from adults and no interrogation should be conducted for intelligence purposes.
The government of Nigeria should also publicly denounce the recruitment of children by civilian self-defense militias, and local authorities should end any support to armed groups which are found to have recruited children. On this, the commitment made by the Attorney-General of Nigeria to produce an advisory that recalled the prohibition of recruitment and use of children by government-affiliated self-defense groups is welcomed as a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile in Geneva, the Human Rights Council mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on violations and abuses of human rights and atrocities committed by Boko Haram. While it is unfortunate that the scope of the mandate was limited to violations committed by Boko Haram, Watchlist welcomes this significant development and encourages the investigation team to include in the report a section looking specifically at violations committed against children.