Borno Families launch appeal fund to secure justice for relative detained as Boko Haram suspects
About 1200 family members of suspects currently in military detention facilities for alleged involvement with the Boko Haram had on Sunday launched an appeal fund to enable them get justice and possible release of their relatives whom they insist were innocent.
The suspected Boko Haram members' family, mostly women, said they have formed a movement called KNIFAR, which is an umbrella body that has been coordinating their quest for justice.
The group said their biggest challenge since the arrest of their relatives, mostly husbands and male children, by the Nigeria military about two years ago, was their recent denial of access to appear before the presidential panel set to up to review allege cases of rights abuses by soldiers of the Nigeria military.
This development was coming barely hours to the date, Monday 9th October, 2017 which the federal government of Nigeria fixed for the commencement of trial for the over 1600 Boko haram suspects being held in detention facilities.
The trial is expected to be conducted off the glare of the media.
The group said they are sure of their detained relatives' innocence, and are demanding for their immediate release by the military whom they said had failed to arraign them before the court of law since 2015.
KNIFAR members lamented that they had earlier submitted their petition before the Presidential Panel when it commenced sitting in Maiduguri recently. But that they were not invited to speak at the public hearing before the Panel summarily ended its sitting.
The group insisted that their relatives that are being held in the military detention centre were victims of Boko Haram violence who were caught in-between the two warring forces of soldiers and Boko Haram before the former rounded them off and tagged them suspected Boko Haram.
The group said they reached out to the Presidential Panel to complain about how they were not given chance to speak for their relatives in detention but were told their time was up. They added that the committee said they could only be heard if they could travel down to Abuja
The group which comprised of indigent women, who are mostly living in IDP camp sai they had no such resources that could transport them down to Abuja. As such they launched an appeal fund seeking for well meaning Nigerians to help them donate fund to enable them get justice for their relatives.
The office of the Attorney General of the Federation had had last week announced that the trial of about 1600 Boko Haram suspects held in different detention facilities across Nigeria would commence on Monday, 9th of October in Kainji, Niger state and Maiduguri, Borno state.
Efforts to get the various spokespersons for Knifar to confirm if they are aware of the forthcoming court trail of their relatives did not yield positive results as at the time of filing this report.
The full text of their appeal letter reads:-
HELP KNIFAR TO GET JUSTICE
Today, the Knifar movement launched their fundraising campaign 'Give Knifar access to justice' to enable them to travel to Abuja. The women hope to get enough money to testify before the Presidential Investigation Panel which is currently looking at how the armed forces comply with human rights obligations.
According to Knifar's chairwoman:
"For years, we lived in silence, despair and frustration because our husbands, relatives and children are locked up by the military without reason. We have also lost our children in a military-run IDP camp in Bama due to malnutrition and diseases. Some of us were raped by soldiers and Civilian JTF.
Until recently, nobody listened to us and we didn't know how to ask for help. Knifar has changed that for us. We finally found a way to reach out to those who can help us and the reactions have been overwhelming.
We organise meetings to discuss our campaign in our camp and our group grew from 250 members to more than 1200, spread all over Borno state.
Most of our relatives were arrested in since July 2015 by the military during their screening after we escaped Boko Haram and left our villages.
We are requesting for their release considering the fact that they were not Boko Haram. They are innocent and were only caught up in the process. If the military does have evidence that our relatives are Boko Haram members, they should present it to a court of law and charge them.
We were very happy when we heard a Presidential Panel had been set up to investigate cases of abuses committed by the military and we were glad to learn that the Panel would be sitting in Maiduguri. We sent our own petition as requested and readied ourselves to appear before the Panel in Maiduguri.
The Panel ended its sitting in Maiduguri earlier than announced and despite our appearance at the venue, we were denied the opportunity to state our case. Rather, we were told to go to Abuja if we insist on being heard.
We were devastated, however, when the Panel refused to hear us. We came with 250 women to the court premises, but we were not allowed inside. They just said, 'come to Abuja.'
How do they expect displaced women in our situation to go to Abuja when we can't even afford to feed our children? It is a daily struggle to find food and we don't know where the next meal will come from. This is how we have lived.
In our letter of complaint to the Panel, we explained that we had hoped it would support us financially to be in Abuja. Instead, they replied, calling our complaints "uncharitable" and saying we should bear every cost ourselves.
In August, we celebrated the establishment of the Presidential Investigation Panel as we thought they would help us. Obviously the refusal to hear us was a huge disappointment. We still believe that testifying before the Presidential Investigation Panel is best way to achieve our goal: to get access to justice.
Our message for all Nigerians
We are pleading with Nigerians to help us. Please, we are Nigerians just like you. We want to be reunited with our husbands and children. But we also feel it is time we tell our story. The country should know what is happening in the North-East because to us, the suffering is too much.
We hope that Nigerians understand that our relatives have nothing to do with Boko Haram. They are victims of Boko Haram and military brutality.
Our husbands and relatives have been detained since 2015 without ever been charged to court. What for? What is their crime?
For years we suffered in silence. We left it all to God. Not anymore. We have lost almost everything but not our dignity.
We formed Knifar because no one listened to us. Now we found a voice. Together we are united. Now it's time for us to get justice. We pray people will support us.
Please, join us in our campaign for justice and support us.
Please help us to reunite with our relatives who are still alive and detained by the military. Once we are reunited with them, we want to return to our villages and return to our farming again.
Our message for the government
We respectfully ask the Government to release all detainees held by the military who haven't been charged with any criminal offence and to release the list with all people in military detention so we and all other people whose relatives have been arrested can locate our relatives. We also ask the government to bring to justice those soldiers and CJTF responsible for the death of our children and elderly and for raping us, as well as the Boko Haram fighters who are responsible for killing and raping our people.
Knifar is a group of displaced women from northeast Nigeria, who represent more than 1200 men, women and children in military-run detention centres. Knifar was formed to collectively speak and demand for justice.
SIGNED: RELATIVES OF THOSE ARRESTED BY THE MILITARY
ORGANISED UNDER KNIFAR MOVEMENT
Temporary address: Dalori 2 IDP camp Maiduguri;
Spokespeople are available:
Hausa: 09061153311; Kanuri: 09023854377 and 07016595064;
Video: download here https://we.tl/GTwKUq8Wyh