Nigerian Soldiers Rape Starving Women in IDP Camps, Says Amnesty International

Presidency, military dismiss report, say it’s devoid of credibility

Senator Iroegbu, Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Ejiofor Alike in Lagos

A new report by Amnesty International has revealed that thousands of women and girls who survived the brutal rule of the Boko Haram armed group have since been further abused by the Nigerian security forces who claim to be rescuing them.

The rights group said in the report released wednesday that displaced women confined to remote camps have been forced to become “girlfriends” of military in exchange for humanitarian assistance, adding that thousands have died of starvation due to lack of food in the camps.
However, the presidency and the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) have disputed the report, saying it is devoid of credibility.

The Amnesty International report, which alleged persecution of women and girls abducted by Boko Haram, also stated that “they betrayed us” reveals how the Nigerian military and Civilian Joint Task Force have separated women from their husbands and confined them in remote “satellite camps” where they have been raped, sometimes in exchange for food.

The group said it had collected evidence that thousands of people have starved to death in the camps in Borno State, North-east Nigeria, since 2015.

“It is absolutely shocking that people who had already suffered so much under Boko Haram have been condemned to further horrendous abuse by the Nigerian military,” said Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho.

“Instead of receiving protection from the authorities, women and girls have been forced to succumb to rape in order to avoid starvation or hunger,” Ojigho said.
The report noted that in some cases, the abuse appears to be part of a pattern of persecution of anyone perceived to have a connection to Boko Haram.

According to the report, women have reported being beaten and called “Boko Haram wives” by the security officials when they complained about their treatment.

“As Nigeria’s military recovered territory from the armed group in 2015, it ordered people living in rural villages to the satellite camps, in some cases indiscriminately killing those who remained in their homes. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled or were forced from these areas.

“The military screened everyone arriving to the satellite camps, and in some locations detained most men and boys aged between 14 and 40 as well as women who travelled unaccompanied by their husbands. The detention of so many men has left women to care for their families alone,” said the report.

Amnesty International revealed that scores of women have described how soldiers and Civilian JTF members have used force and threats to rape women in satellite camps, including by taking advantage of hunger to coerce women to become their “girlfriends”, which involved being available for sex on an ongoing basis.

The report added that five women told Amnesty International that they were raped in late 2015 and early 2016 in Bama Hospital camp as famine-like conditions prevailed.

“Ama (not her real name), 20, said: “They will give you food but in the night they will come back around 5pm or 6pm and they will tell you to come with them… One (Civilian JTF) man came and brought food to me. The next day he said I should take water from his place (and I went).

“He then closed the tent door behind me and raped me. He said I gave you these things, if you want them we have to be husband and wife”.

“Ten others in the same camp said that they were also coerced into becoming “girlfriends” of security officials to save themselves from starvation. Most of these women had already lost children or other relatives due to lack of food, water and healthcare in the camp. The sexual exploitation continues at an alarming level as women remain desperate to access sufficient food and livelihood opportunities,” Amnesty International explained in the report.

“Sex in these highly coercive circumstances is always rape, even when physical force is not used, and Nigerian soldiers and Civilian JTF members have been getting away it. They act like they don’t risk sanction, but the perpetrators and their superiors who have allowed this to go unchallenged have committed crimes under international law and must be held to account,” said Ojigho.

But in a swift reaction, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the report lacked credibility because it fell short of factual claims that could have provided the lead for investigation.

The statement which faulted the altruism of the international human rights watch findings, also dismissed as untrue the agency’s submission that it contacted the Nigerian authorities on the alleged misconduct of the military and Civilian JTF, describing the AI report as a wild goose chase.

According to the statement, the report is nothing but a recycling of the agency’s earlier report in 2015 and 2016, pointing out that the report also ignored the measures put in place by both the military and a presidential committee put in place to address the allegations raised by the agency in the previous years.

The statement also said the federal government remained committed to the promise it made during a joint press conference addressed by President Muhammadu Buhari with the United States President Donald Trump that it had made the promotion of human rights and protection of people’s freedom its watchword.

Also, the DHQ in a statement by the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. John Agim, described report as a malicious trend by AI that is becoming a frequent ritual and rather unfortunate.

Agim said in times like this, Al is expected to apply the natural law of liaison by working with security agencies as partners.

According to him, this would have been the best way to ensure that insurgency and crisis are completely wiped off rather than engaging in falsehood, maligning the military and painting her in bad light at any slight opportunity.

He said: “The Nigerian military wishes to use this medium to reiterate her commitment to the citizens of our dear nation, that it will abide by all human rights regulations as entered into by Nigeria and also go the extra mile in ensuring that the territorial integrity of our nation is well protected.”

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Amnesty International: Soldiers raping women in Nigerian IDP camps… thousands starving to death

Thousands of women and girls who survived Boko Haram violence in the north-east are being abused by the Nigerian security forces, according to Amnesty International (AI).

In a report unveiled in Abuja on Thursday, the organisation said investigations showed how women, young girls and children were “raped and starved to death” by soldiers in various internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps.

The report said women were separated from their husbands and confined in “satellite camps” where they have been sexually exploited, sometimes in exchange for food.

Speaking at the launch, Osai Ojigho, AI country director in Nigeria, said the organisation also collected evidence of how “thousands of people have starved to death” in the IDPs camps in Borno state since 2015.

“It is absolutely shocking that people who had already suffered so much under Boko Haram have been condemned to further horrendous abuse by the Nigerian military,” she said.

“Instead of receiving protection from the authorities, women and girls have been forced to succumb to rape in order to avoid starvation or hunger.”

She added that in some cases, the abuse “appears to be part of a pattern of persecution” of anyone perceived to have a connection to Boko Haram as the female victims are usually called “Boko Haram wives”.

“Scores of women described how soldiers and civilian JTF members have used force and threats to rape women in satellite camps, including by taking advantage of hunger to coerce women to become their ‘girlfriends’, which involved being available for sex on an ongoing basis,” the report added.

One of the women identified as Ama (not her real name), who is 20-year-old, was quoted as saying: “They will give you food but they will come back around 5pm or 6pm and they will tell you to come with them… One [civilian JTF] man came and brought food to me.

“The next day he said I should take water from his place [and I went]. He then closed the tent door behind me and raped me. He said I gave you these things, if you want them we have to be husband and wife.”

‘DEATH FROM STARVATION’

The report added that people confined in the satellite camps faced an “acute food shortage” from early 2015 until mid-2016, when humanitarian assistance was increased.

It said: “At least hundreds, and possibly thousands, died in Bama Hospital camp alone during this time. Those interviewed consistently reported that 15 to 30 people died each day from hunger and sickness during these months. .

“Satellite images, showing how the graveyard inside the camp expanded quickly during this time, confirm their testimonies. There were also daily deaths in other satellite camps such as those in Banki and Dikwa communities.”

Also speaking at the event, Bukky Shonibare, founder, Girl Child Africa, said her organisation had at various times called the attention of the federal government and military authorities to the “sexual abuse” in the north-east but “nothing had been done.”

She also talked about the “fear” the IDPs live in, and how those of them who “open up” are punished by the soldiers.

“We that go to the field always report sexual violence in the areas affected by Boko Haram conflict. But nothing has been done,” she said.

FG, MILITARY SILENT

Ojigho said AI shared its findings with the Nigerian authorities but “no response has been received” as at when the report was published.

However, A. D. Gbadebo, a military officer that attended the launch, declined comment on the allegations.

Gbadebo, who is a brigadier-general and who was the only representative of the Nigerian military at the event, however said the usual challenge being experienced in the camps is “communication gap”.

“There is usually the problem of lack of proper channel of communication,” he said.

When probed further to comment on some of the issues raised, he said: “I can’t say anything on that.”

The defence headquarters had earlier described the report as an attempt to “smear the military.”

“This malicious trend by AI is becoming a frequent ritual and it is rather unfortunate,” it had said in a statement on Wednesday.

 

Source: https://www.thecable.ng/amnesty-thousands-starved-death-soldiers-raping-women-idp-camps

New Toolkit Supports Advocates in Using Media to Fight for HIV Justice

When it comes to the widely misunderstood, complex issue of HIV criminalisation, media can be a powerful tool–or a blunt-force weapon.

And so today, as people around the world living with HIV continue to be criminalised and convicted at alarming rates, HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE has released “Making Media Work for HIV Justice: An introduction to media engagement for advocates opposing HIV criminalisation.

The new resource is the latest addition to the HIV JUSTICE Toolkit, which provides resources from all over the world to assist advocates in approaching a range of advocacy targets, including lawmakers, prosecutors and judges, police, and the media.

The purpose of this critical media toolkit is to inform and equip global grassroots advocates who are engaged in media response to HIV criminalisation–and to demystify the practice of working with, and through, media to change the conversation around criminalisation.

“As advocates work to build community coalitions and consensus about the importance of limiting and ending HIV criminalisation, we need to articulate our common positions to the public and to decision-makers; thus, working with the media is critically important,” says Richard Elliott, Executive Director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and a member of the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee. “Also, particularly in settings where sexual assault laws are used to criminalise people living with HIV, it is important to communicate via the media why this misuse of the criminal law is harmful to women.”

The toolkit provides an introduction to the topic of HIV criminalisation and the importance of engagement with media to change narratives around this unjust practice. The toolkit also includes reporting tips for journalists, designed to educate writers and media makers around the nuances of HIV criminalisation, and the harms of inaccurate and stigmatising coverage.

Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee member organisation that produced the toolkit, has been working on HIV criminalisation for many years, and was an instrumental part of the coalition that brought HIV criminal law reform to the US state of California.

“With HIV rarely making front page news anymore, the highly sensationalised reporting of criminalisation cases–which most often contains little in the way of facts or science–paints a dehumanising picture of people living with HIV,” says Jennie Smith-Camejo, Communications Director for PWN-USA. “This kind of coverage can and does destroy real lives of those affected by HIV criminalisation laws, while fueling and feeding misinformation and stigma.”

The toolkit also includes a number of case studies providing examples of how media played a significant role in the outcome, or the impetus, of HIV criminalisation advocacy.

“I have been monitoring media coverage of speculations, arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of people living with HIV, and also legal and policy proposals for new laws and/or reform, for more than a decade,” notes Edwin J Bernard, Global Co-ordinator of the HIV Justice Network and a member of the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE coalition. “It’s time for the injustice to end. ‘Making Media Work for HIV Justice’ is a long-overdue welcome addition to the HIV JUSTICE Toolkit, and an important step towards realising a world where people living with HIV are not singled out by the criminal justice system simply for having a virus.“

Source: http://www.hivjustice.net

UNAIDS urges a scaling up of HIV vaccine research to stop new infections

UNAIDS GENEVA, 17 May 2018—On HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, 18 May, UNAIDS is calling for an increase in research and investment to find an effective vaccine to protect people against HIV and stop new HIV infections. In 2016, around 1.8 million people were newly infected with HIV and although the number of new infections has declined in recent years, the world is still far from achieving the UNAIDS Fast-Track Target of reducing new HIV infections to fewer than 500 000 by 2020.

“New HIV infections are not declining fast enough and stopping infections must become a global priority,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “There are 36.7 million people living with HIV today, all in need of costly treatment for life, which will be difficult to sustain over the long term. To truly end AIDS, it is essential to find an effective HIV vaccine and a cure.”

In mid-2017, more than half (20.9 million) of the 36.7 million people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral medicines to keep them alive and well. Over the next decade, efforts will be scaled up so that all people living with HIV can access the life-saving treatment. Without a cure or a therapeutic vaccine, millions of people will need to be sustained on lifelong treatment.

Promising steps have been made in recent years, with four large-scale trials currently under way and exciting developments in the pipeline. Innovative approaches to immunization are showing great promise in animal models and an ever-increasing array of highly potent broadly neutralizing antibodies have been discovered and can be engineered to persist in the human body so that we may one day be able to prevent HIV infection with a single injection each year.

Safe and effective vaccines have the potential to change the world. Some infectious diseases that were once commonplace, killing millions and leaving countless people with lifelong disabilities, have become rare. Smallpox has been eradicated, only 17 people developed polio in 2017 and in 2016 the Pan American Health Organization declared that measles had been eliminated from the Americas.

An effective, durable, affordable and safe vaccine for HIV would significantly advance efforts to end AIDS. For the past decade, investments have remained steady, at around US$ 900 million per year, which is less than 5% of the total resources needed for the AIDS response. By scaling up investments in HIV vaccine research, diversifying funding and attracting the best scientists from around the world, a vaccine for HIV could become a reality.

Source: http://www.unaids.org

2 Nigerian boys fall in love with each other in a new film by Tiers

The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs) Nigeria, a Nigerian human rights group, has collaborated with Nollywood for its new LGBT-themed film project.

The new film ‘We Don’t Live Here Anymore’ is directed by Tope Oshin, an award-winning Nigerian film director and producer notable for working on some of the highest box office breaking Nigerian films such as ‘Fifty’ ‘Shuga’ ‘The Wedding Party2’ ‘Journey to Self’ and ‘Tinsel’ (TV Series).

Writing credits for the film goes to Noni Salma, a Nigerian U.S-based transgender filmmaker. Salma also wrote the film ‘Hell or High Water’ and ‘Veil of Silence’ a documentary film about LGBT struggle in Nigeria, all in collaboration with TIERs.

‘We Don’t Live Here Anymore’ is about two teenage boys Tolu Bajulaiye(Francis Sule) and Chidi Egwuonwu(Temidayo Akinboro) in the fictional Prominence high school who both find themselves embroiled in a high stake scandal that could alter the course of their future. With an impending expulsion at bay, Tolu’s mother Nike (Funlola Aofiyebi Raimi) who is a powerful matriarch pulls all the strings within her palm and resets the tone into what would become a battle of class, blackballing and a triggering society ready to punish anything besides the status-quo.

Source: http://www.nostringsng.com