UN rights office condemns Boko Haram for kidnappings

[JURIST] A spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Tuesday criticized [press release] the militant group Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for kidnapping more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in April and announced plans to sell them and "marry them off." Spokesperson Rupert Colville warned the group [UN News Centre report] about the "absolute prohibition" of sexual slavery under international law and that their actions could constitute crimes against humanity. Colville further stated that these crimes have no statute of limitations barring their prosecution, meaning that perpetrators could be arrested and tried at any time in the future. These statements came in the wake of reports that another eight Nigerian girls have been kidnapped. UN officials have continued to strongly condemn the actions and have urged the Nigerian government to take an active role in investigating and prosecuting these crimes, and to find the girls and return them to their homes. The government has also been warned that failure to take action could itself be considered a violation of human rights. It is believed that the girls were targeted by Boko Haram simply because they were attending school.

In one of the most recent international responses to the kidnappings, US President Barack Obama has pledged [LAT report] to send military, intelligence and law enforcement officers to assist the Nigerian government. The officials will provide investigative rather than military assistance at this time, though Obama has sharply criticized the perpetrators, reportedly referring to the kidnappings as "heartbreaking" and calling Boko Haram, "one of the worst regional or local terrorist organizations ... in Nigeria." However, Boko Haram's actions have caused other extrinsic problems as well. In March Amnesty International released [JURIST report] a report finding that some responses by Nigerian security forces to attacks by Boko Haram have themselves been in conflict with human rights standards. Earlier in March UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay had called [JURIST report] on the Nigerian government to focus on protecting human rights and not to "exacerbate" violence in its response to attacks by Boko Haram. In August the International Criminal Court expressed its finding [JURIST report] that there existed a "reasonable basis" to believe that Boko Haram was guilty of crimes against humanity. Boko Haram, whose name literally means "Western education is a sin" has been fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government in the interest of creating an Islamist state.

 

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