Nigerian Human Rights Panel Investigates Claims That Army Forced Abortions And Murdered Children

(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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A special human rights panel has been convened by Nigerian authorities to investigate reports of abuse by the country’s army.

A series of reports from Reuters published late last year found that the Nigerian military killed thousands of innocent children and forced women to have abortions during its fight with the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission launched an investigation Tuesday into the allegations.

The NHRC does not have the authority to force government or military leaders to prosecute wrongdoers, Reuters reported, meaning the panel faces an uphill climb to holding anyone accountable. No senior Nigerian officials have been known to have been prosecuted as a result of the commission’s work.

Thousands of children have allegedly been murdered by Nigerian security forces because they were “assumed to be collaborating with militants in Boko Haram or its Islamic State offshoot,” more than 40 sources told Reuters last year. One mother said her twins were killed because soldiers told her they were “children of Boko Haram — they are not human beings.”

A separate report found that the Nigerian army forced women to abort more than 10,000 unborn children due to the prospective mothers having been raped by Boko Haram militants. The program of forced abortions was described as “secret” and “systemic” and women who did not wish to have their unborn children aborted were often beaten or drugged until they complied.

Only one of 33 women who spoke to Reuters consented to having an abortion. Some were as far along in their pregnancies as eight months. The women were allegedly told not to speak to anyone about the procedures and were often not told they were being given an abortion until after they had been injected or force-fed certain substances.

The investigative panel will be headed by a former Supreme Court Justice and former major general. The State Department, Amnesty International and the United Nations all called on Nigeria to investigate the allegations after the reports. (RELATED: REPORT: Catholic Priest Burned Alive In Nigeria)

The NHRC was formed in 1995 during military rule in Nigeria and was given more power in 2010. The commission has the power to recommend a prosecution but cannot itself bring charges. The State Department reported in 2019, 2020 and 2021 that it had no evidence that any NHRC investigations had led to “accountability.”