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Boko Haram: Make ‘liberated areas’ truly safe for returnees, UN experts urge Nigeria

GENEVA (12 February 2016) – United Nations human rights experts* today urged the Government of Nigeria to ensure that the areas they claim to have liberated from Boko Haram forces are truly safe for people displaced by the violence, enabling them to return home. They also called for camps, both formal and informal, for internally displaced persons (IDPs), to be adequately protected, and stressed that all returns should be voluntary and coordinated.

The experts’ appeal comes after a series of brutal attacks by Boko Haram on villages in north-eastern Nigeria that included an attempt to storm an informal IDP settlement near the village of Dalori, where more than 90 people, predominantly women and children, are believed to have been killed. In addition, according to reports, on Tuesday two female suicide bombers attacked the site for internally displaced Nigerians at Dikwa, located some 90 kms west of the Borno capital, Maidugiri, killing more than 50 people and injuring dozens.

“We call on the Nigerian Government to plan carefully for any IDPs return, given the relentless attacks by Boko Haram in ostensibly safe areas,” said UN Special Rapporteur on sale of children Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, who two weeks ago visited the Dalori camp. The expert, together with the UN Special Rapporteurs on slavery, Urmila Bhoola, and on health, Dainius Pûras, visited Dalori camp during their mission aimed to examine the efforts to reintegrate and rehabilitate women and children abducted and abused by Boko Haram.

While noting government’s announcement to reinforce security measures around IDP camps and civilian sites, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, stated: “We condemn this cynical attack on people who have already lost so much. They must not be returned to areas lacking adequate security.” The experts expressed the need to support the search for durable solution including safe and voluntary return, local integration and relocation to safer areas.

“These attacks put yet another strain on already depleted resources to cater for the need of the existing displaced individuals and add enormous anguish to women, men and children who are already traumatized by the horrendous abuses and unspeakable cruelty at the hands of Boko Haram which has caused immense suffering,” Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio said, underlining the IDPs’ extreme level of vulnerability. “We urge the Nigerian authorities to do more to stem the wave of recent violence.”

Child rights expert Benyam Dawit Mezmur, who currently heads the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, reminded the Nigerian authorities that they must ensure the safety and security of civilians on its territory, and to address human rights abuses by third parties.
“The Nigerian authorities are legally obliged under international human rights law, in particular under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it has ratified, to take all necessary steps to respect, protect and fulfil the right to life of children, as well as ensuring their right to safety and security which among others, entails protecting them from violence, intimidation, sexual abuse and slavery,” Mr. Mezmur said on behalf of the Committee.

The UN experts also stressed that countering terrorism and addressing the Boko Haram threat will require more than military action, and urged the authorities to publicly pledge to hold to account all those who have committed human rights violations – including, but not limited to, Boko Haram.

“The Nigerian authorities must ensure accountability in the context of the insurgency; encourage community reconciliation; and ensure protection for all,  in particular women and girls,” they said. “There can be no impunity for the most serious crimes.”

The conflict in north-east Nigeria, including Boko Haram attacks, has in recent years forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes, including more than 2.1 million displaced within the country. About 10 per cent live in camps and the rest with host families. About 1.6 million of these internally displaced people are in Borno, where many live in sites like Dikwa, which is home to 70,000 displaced people. Dikwa is one of the hardest hit of the 27 Local Government Areas that make up Borno. Dikwa has so far remained inaccessible to the UN refugee agency and partners because of generalized insecurity.

The UN human rights experts expressed deep sympathy and condolences to the families of all the victims of the armed insurgency in Nigeria.

(*) The experts: Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, UN Special Rapporteur on sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution; Ms. Urmila  Bhoola, UN Special Rapporteur on  contemporary forms of slavery; Mr. Dainius Pūras, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health; Mr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; and Mr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. For more information, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. It also monitors implementation of the Optional Protocols on involvement of children in armed conflict, and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, in addition to a third one that allow individual children to submit complaints to the Committee. For more information, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRCIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Nigeria: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/NGIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Federica Donati (+41 22 917 9496 / fdonati@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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