-- Military detention in Nigeria can be deadly -- particularly for minors, according to a report released today by Amnesty International.
Eleven children under the age of six, including four babies, were among 149 people who died this year following their detention in the Giwa barracks detention center in Maiduguri, Nigeria, says the report.
The organization gathered evidence through interviews with eyewitnesses and former detainees, supported by photos and videos. Many detainees may have died from disease, hunger, dehydration, and gunshots wounds, according to Amnesty International.
“The most shocking finding has been the fact that babies and children have been detained in barracks and actually died, Daniel Eyre, Amnesty’s Nigeria researcher, told ABC News.
Amnesty International believes that around 1,200 people are currently detained at Giwa barracks in overcrowded and dirty cells. At least 120 of them are children. Babies and children under five years old are being held in three overcrowded cells for women -– the number of detainees in these cells has increased from 25 in 2015 to 250 in early 2016, according to Amnesty International.
The children appeared to have been detained with their mothers who were typically arrested in the aftermath of an attack by Boko Haram because the Islamist group often uses women and girls to carry bombs.
“Some of the women who were injured during one of those attacks were arrested simply because they were in the neighborhood,” said Eyre.
Many of the arrests were arbitrary and the detainees often have no access to a lawyer, their family and never face a court, according to Amnesty International.
Witnesses told Amnesty International that there wasn’t enough room to lie down in the cells. Detainees have to use communal buckets for urine and feces, which are only emptied each morning and the cells are rarely cleaned.
“One woman who was detained was only able to have her clothes washed twice in five months and was never able to wash herself. In those conditions diseases spread relatively quickly,” Eyre said adding that measles seemed to be a common cause of death for children under 6.
One witness told Amnesty International that they saw the bodies of eight dead children including a 5-month old baby.
Two former detainees reported that two toddlers died in February 2016. A 20-year-old woman, who had been held in a women’s cell for more than two months this year told Amnesty International: “When the children died the reaction was too much sadness.”