8 October 2017
By Ikenna Amadi
Nigeria is set to try more than 2,300 suspected members of the Takfiri Boko Haram militant group in unprecedented mass trials behind closed doors.
The defendants, whose trials are to begin on Monday, have all been picked up and held in detention since the start of Boko Haram militancy eight years ago.
Currently, just 13 people have been put on trial and only nine convicted for their links to the Takfiri group, according to official figures.
The most high-profile current case is that of Khalid Al-Barnawi, a leader of Boko Haram offshoot, Ansaru, who is charged with the abduction and murder of 10 foreign nationals.
Nigeria’s Justice Ministry announced the start of the trials at the end of last month, saying four judges had been assigned and that defendants would have legal representation.
Some 1,670 detainees at a military base in Kainji, in the central state of Niger will be tried first and will be followed by 651 others held at the Giwa barracks in the capital of the
northeastern state of Borno State, Maiduguri.
The trials are seen as a positive step, as many of the detainees had been held in custody for years, without access to a lawyer or ever having appeared before a judge.
Amnesty International said in a June 2015 report that more than 20,000 people had been arbitrarily arrested as part of the fight against Boko Haram.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in 2015, has promised to look into repeated accusations of human rights violations, including by high-ranking officers.
At least two commissions of inquiry have been established but the army announced in June this year that no action would be taken against top brass accused by Amnesty.
Amnesty believes the mass trials of Boko Haram suspects were the result of international pressure on the Nigerian government.