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Amnesty report details 'horrendous conditions' of Nigerian detainees

In a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International puts the spotlight on conditions in Nigeria's notorious Giwa barracks. Adults and children are detained without contact to the outside world.

Amnesty International's latest report on conditions in Giwa barracks, where children and even babies are among the more than 1,000 inmates, makes grim reading. There have been some 150 deaths this year alone. DW spoke to Daniel Eyre, Amnesty International's Nigeria researcher.

DW: Giwa barracks are located in Maiduguri, in the Nigerian region hardest hit by the Boko Haram insurgency. What kinds of detainees are kept there?

Daniel Eyre: Maiduguri is really the epicenter of the conflict. We estimate that at least 1,200 detainees are kept in the barracks. These are people who are kept on suspicion of being supporters or members of  Boko Haram. But when we spoke to people who were arrested or who witnessed these arrests, it becomes clear that many people have been arrested completely arbitrarily, often because they are young men who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In your report, you say you have gathered evidence from former detainees and eyewitnesses. Apart from what they say, have there been any medical tests that can confirm that the victims died as a result of the conditions under which they were detained?

 

One of the problems is that when people die in detention, no autopsy is conducted. They are simply taken away and buried. There is no official account of what happened to them. We obtained photographs of some of those who died and had them subjected to analysis by a forensic anthropologist. The analysis was that the images are consistent with a lack of access to food and water and death as a result of disease. That is exactly what people who were detained in the barracks are telling us, that they are not getting enough water or food, people are losing weight as a result and disease is rife inside the barracks. So those are the causes of death as far we can establish.

What has been the government's response or reason given for not acting?

Deaths in military detention are an issue that we have covered since 2013. Under previous administrations in Nigeria, we found that more than 7,000 people died in military custody between 2011 and 2015. That's a truly horrific number. Although steps have been taken in the last couple of years to try and improve conditions in military custody, we believe that recent mass arrests of suspects have erased those gains.

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