18 July, 2014
Human Rights Watch says the Nigerian rebel group Boko Haram has killed more than 2,000 people in the first six months of this year. It says the group's attacks are crimes against humanity.
Corinne Dufka is West Africa director of Human Rights Watch. She says Boko Haram is making war against the people of northeastern Nigeria. She says this aggression is causing what she calls "a staggering human cost."
"We have documented 95 attacks on 70 towns and villages."
She said most of the attacks happened in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram kidnapped an estimated 276 schoolgirls from that area in April.
Boko Haram has also carried out attacks in the capital, Abuja.
Ms. Dufka says her group used media reports and information from human rights groups and others to confirm that Boko Haram has caused more than 2,000 deaths since January.
"We analyzed these reports looking at, again, credible reports of morgue workers, local officials, civilians, witnesses, who had seen the bodies buried or registered. And we came up with this figure, which is probably conservative."
She says the attacks have greatly increased since a state of emergency was declared in three northern states. The emergency conditions took effect in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in May, 2013.
Human Rights Watch says there has been a sharp increase this year in deaths from bomb explosions, including suicide bombings.
Ms. Dufka says the attacks should be considered crimes against humanity. She said the crimes include murder, torture, rape and other actions done as part of what Human Rights Watch calls a widespread or systematic attack.
"And we believe that the nature of these attacks -- the similarity, the organized nature in which they're being committed -- suggest that they really are crimes against humanity."
One of Boko Haram's actions included kidnapping the schoolgirls from the town of Chibok. Human Rights Watch says there have also been many attacks on schools where male students were killed. In February, an attack on the Federal Government College in Yobe State killed 59 boys.
Ms. Dufka says Human Rights Watch and other groups also have confirmed abuses by Nigerian security forces. It says they include use of unreasonable force, detentions without charge, the burning of homes, and killing suspected Boko Haram supporters.
"The government of Nigeria, regardless of how egregious these attacks are -- they have to abide by international law when responding to them."
She says the Nigerian government must not only protect the population from Boko Haram. She says Nigeria must also protect against security forces that may operate outside the law.
I'm Christopher Cruise.
This story was written from a report by VOA reporter Joe De Capua in Washington