Secret trials of thousands of Boko Haram suspects to start in Nigeria

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Unprecedented series of mass trials of more than 2,300 suspected Islamist militants will take place in military facilities

By: Jason Burke / Source: The Guardian / The Dawn News / October 9, 2017 

Nigerian soldiers patrol in the central state of Niger, where about 1,670 Boko Haram detainees are being held at a base in Kainji. Photograph: EPA

More than 2,300 suspected Islamist militants are expected to appear in court in Nigeria from Monday in an unprecedented series of mass trials that local authorities hope will be seen as evidence of progress in the fight against Boko Haram, one of Africa’s most resilient insurgencies.

All the defendants have been detained since Boko Haram, which means “no to western education”, launched its campaign eight years ago.

The conflict has left at least 20,000 dead in the country’s remote north-east and destabilised a swath of west Africa, displacing millions of people.

But analysts say the trials – which will be held in secret and will see four judges deal with hundreds of cases each – raise serious concerns and could undermine the fight against the group.

“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.

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