The UN Human Rights Office on Friday expressed its concern about the large number of casualties, reportedly including many civilians, and massive destruction of houses and property, as well as displacement that has taken in Baga, the fishing town near Lake Chad, in the north eastern state of Borno in Nigeria.
“The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the Nigerian government to make sure its efforts to achieve security are in full compliance with human rights principles,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky at a news briefing in New York.
Up to 185 people were killed, 2,000 houses razed and 486 motorcycles damaged in clashes between the Nigerian military and the assailants, which erupted overnight on April 16 and continued for days in a border town of Baga in north-eastern Nigeria.
OHCHR said the fighting was spurred by the killing of a soldier on a military patrol by the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram militant sect. This is one of the most deadliest fighting since the sect launched insurgency in 2009.
Nigeria’s army authorities have played down the level of destruction and the human casualties, but this has been debunked by satellite images and testimonies by witnesses.
Based in Borno State, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks for the past years, including kidnappings, killings and drive-by motorbike assassinations of civilians and politicians, members of government institutions, security forces and foreign nationals, according to OHCHR.
OHCHR urged security forces and the military to “respect human rights and avoid excessive use of force when conducting operations, ” as the patrols stoked local resentment, especially when civilians were killed or had their property damaged, Nesirky said.
While welcoming the important step the government has made by establishing a committee to open talks with Boko Haram, OHCHR called on the Nigerian authorities to make sure that perpetrators of serious human rights violations are held accountable, said the spokesperson.
The Nigerian president on April 17 approved the constitution of a 26-member committee to constructively engage key members of the Boko Haram sect in fruitful dialogue and define a comprehensive and workable framework for resolving the crisis of insecurity in the northern part of the country.