Human Rights Watch has urged the Nigerian Government to release all children detained by the military over suspected links with Boko Haram.

The United States-based global watchdog said in a 50-page report released in Abuja that thousands of children were being arbitrarily detained in degrading and inhuman conditions in military cells, particularly at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The group said, “Many children are held without charge for months or years in squalid and severely overcrowded military barracks with no contact with the outside world.

“Children are being detained in horrific conditions for years, with little or no evidence of involvement with Boko Haram, and without even being taken to court.

“Many of these children already survived attacks by Boko Haram. The authorities' cruel treatment adds to their suffering and victimises them further.”

HRW asked the Nigerian Government to sign a United Nations protocol that would ensure the transfer of the affected children to child protection authorities for their rehabilitation, reunification with their families and reintegration into their communities.

The Nigerian military denied the report in a statement by Defence spokesperson, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, on Tuesday, saying it was not only false but threatened to undermine peace in the volatile region.

He said, “It is an established fact that Boko Haram terrorists indoctrinate women and children who they use as suicide bombers in the theatre of operations.

“Apprehended children are kept in secured places where they are adequately fed, profiled and de-radicalised before their release.”

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