The mass trials of over 6,600 suspects believed to be members of Islamic radical group Boko Haram have begun in Nigeria, and are being carried out in secret by civilian court judges at a military facility in Kainji town.
As BBC News reported, close to 20,000 people have been slaughtered in Boko Haram’s insurgency in the country, which began in 2009.
The terror group has slaughtered Christians, Muslims, children, and many other civilians in their war against the government, with a driven mission to eradicate Christianity from the country.
Up to 1,670 people suspected of being part of the terror group are being tried in the coming weeks, with another 5,000 people awaiting trial after that.
The Nigerian army said that the terrorists have lost significant ground in the country over the past year, with kidnapping victims, such as the Chibok Christian girls who were taken in April 2014, finally being rescued.
Some human rights advocates have warned that the secrecy of the trials could undermine efforts for justice, however.
“Does the judiciary have the capacity to give so many people charged with very serious offences a fair trial? Have the authorities really captured a quarter of their combat strength? Are they taking into account the fact that a lot of those who committed violence for Boko Haram did so under duress? All these are red flags and very concerning in terms of the broader strategy,” said Ryan Cummings, a South Africa-based expert, according to The Guardian.
Only 13 Boko Haram suspects to date have been put on trial, official figures have said, with nine convicted of aiding the Islamic radicals.
Christian groups have long called for Boko Haram members to be brought to justice.
Laolu Akande, then the executive director of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, told The Christian Post following the 2014 Chibok girls kidnapping:
Boko Haram has been kidnapping little girls who are Christians, trying to turn them into sex slaves, trying to convert them by force. Their strategy is to marry the girls and kill the men. So what they have done by kidnapping these female students, it is another demonstration of the impunity with which Boko Haram has been running its terrorist activities.
“We are just totally, completely appalled that the Nigerian federal government continues to show itself totally incompetent to bring these people to justice and to halt these very pernicious, despicable activities.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund reported on some of Boko Haram’s most disturbing practices in August, when it warned that there has been an alarming rise in the number of children being used as “human bombs” in attacks.
“Children have been used repeatedly in this way over the last few years and so far this year, the number of children used is already four times higher than it was for all of last year,”
UNICEF said in a statement.
“Since Jan. 1, 83 children have been used as ‘human bombs’; 55 were girls, most often younger than 15 years old; 27 were boys, and one was a baby strapped to a girl,” it added.
“The use of children in this way is an atrocity.”
[written by Stoyan Zaimov]