Human Rights Watch has condemned atrocities being carried out in Nigeria by Boko Haram.
The militant Islamist group has reportedly killed thousands of people in its attempts to impose strict Sharia law in the northern part of the country over the last three years.
Victims include Muslims who oppose their ideology and Christians, who have been told to leave the region.
The group has carried out a wave of deadly attacks on churches, government buildings, community centres, schools, police stations and newspaper offices.
According to figures from Human Rights Watch, Boko Haram has bombed or opened fire on worshippers in at least 18 churches across eight northern and central states since 2010.
In Maidaguri, Christian men had been forced to convert to Islam on penalty of death, it found.
“Boko Haram has callously murdered people while they pray at church services in northern Nigeria,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It has also gunned down Muslims who openly oppose the group’s horrific violence.”
The violence is catalogued in a new 98-page report from Human Rights Watch, which also details alleged abuses by Nigeria’s security forces.
Human Rights Watch said Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces had both been guilty of “brazen execution-style killings” that had precipitated further violence.
It accuses the military of excessive force, physical abuse and extrajudicial killings during raids on communities in areas where attacks have occurred. Many of those rounded up in raids have been held incommunicado and in inhuman conditions without charge or trial for months or even years, the group adds.
“The unlawful killing by both Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces only grows worse; both sides need to halt this downward spiral,” said Bekele.
“Nigeria’s government should swiftly bring to justice the Boko Haram members and security agents who have committed these serious crimes.”
Human Rights Watch has called upon Boko Haram to cease all attacks. It is demanding that the Nigerian government take urgent measures to address the human rights abuses that have “helped fuel the violent militancy”.
Bekele said: “Nigeria’s government has a responsibility to protect its citizens from violence, but also to respect international human rights law.
“Instead of abusive tactics that only add to the toll, the authorities should prosecute without delay those responsible for such serious crimes.”
Call to bring Boko Haram to justice
Published 11 October 2012