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General News of Sunday, 15 February 2015

Source: christiantoday.com

Human Rights Watch advises on civilian and prisoner rights

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As five African countries join forces to defeat extremist group Boko Haram, watchdog Human Rights Watch urged the Chadian-led multi-national task force to protect civilian and prisoner rights or else face a stronger Boko Haram.

"The regional force needs concrete measures to make sure civilians in the region are protected, along with the hundreds of abductees and child soldiers," HRW Africa director Daniel Bekele said a press release.

The multinational task force is composed of more than 8,000 soldiers assembled by Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin to combat the growing threat of Boko Haram to the region after the group escalated its campaign to include towns in Cameroon and Niger in the past months.

CNN reported that Boko Haram launched an attack on the Chadian town of Ngouboua on the shores of Lake Chad, killing a soldier and four civilians in what is seen as the group's first attack on Chad. The attack is most likely a reprisal for assisting Nigeria in the first allied effort to expel the group in Nigeria's northeastern towns.

Bekele noted that the reports of abuse committed by the member countries of the multinational task force has prompted concerns about its ability to abide by international law and respect the human rights of all parties involved, including prisoners. There was particular concern for the welfare of young boys and children, as well as men forced into fighting for Boko Haram.

"We know that hundreds of men, women, and children have been abducted by Boko Haram and are in communities under the group's control," Bekele said. "The regional powers carrying out military actions need to take all feasible steps to protect these and other civilians."

HRW warned the multinational force that any abuse of the rights of people living in the war-torn areas are only "likely to increase the group's appeal," thereby defeating the purpose of the multinational task force.

"Respect for human rights, including the rights of prisoners, must not be lost in the urgency of the growing regional threat posed by Boko Haram," Bekele concluded.

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