Human Rights Council calls for the investigation of the atrocities committed by Boko Haram

The atrocities committed by Boko Haram have had a critical impact on the human rights situation in Nigeria and at the borders with its neighbouring countries in the Lake Chad Basin, namely Cameroon, Chad and Niger, said UN Human Rights Chief Zeid.

Speaking at the Special Session convened by the Human Rights Council on 1 April 2015 to address the terrorist attacks and human rights abuses and violations committed by Boko Haram, Zeid highlighted that since 2009, at least 15,000 individuals had died because of the actions of that insurgent group.

“Countless more children, women and men have been abducted, abused and forcibly recruited, and women and girls have been targeted for particularly horrific abuse, including sexual enslavement,” Zeid added. “Villages and towns have been looted and destroyed… and [Boko Haram] attacks have destroyed or severely damaged at least 300 schools, killed numerous students, and ended with the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls.”

Zeid stressed that the authorities and the international community should step up their efforts to respond to the needs of the victims. “Responses to these massive violations must be strong, coordinated and principled,” he said, adding that security forces should take measures to protect civilians, and conduct their counter-insurgency operations in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.

“Vanquishing this threat to peace will require sustained attention that extends beyond the use of military force,” he continued. “Strengthening the rule of law, repealing discriminatory legislation, and implementing inclusive and non-discriminatory policies must be part of the response to the horrific violations being committed by Boko Haram.”

Mireille Fanon Mendes France, speaking on behalf of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, highlighted that counter-terrorism measures often pose serious challenges to economic, social and cultural rights even though, she stressed, the protection of human rights is not incompatible with security.

“The experience of the last decade shows that to be effective counter-terrorism policies or measures should also address the root-causes and conditions that are conducive to the emergence and spread of terrorism,” she said. “These include for instance poverty and unequitable economic development, marginalisation of minority groups, political oppression, deficits in good governance, and polarizations of ethnic and religious characteristics.”

The High Representative of the African Union for Mali and the Sahel, and former President of Burundi, Pierre Bouyoya, said that the nature of terrorism in Africa had evolved over the past decade, and variants of transnational organized crime had become closely linked to the activities and funding of terrorist groups. He highlighted that the countries of the Lake Chad Basin had formed a multinational force in order to coordinate their efforts to combat Boko Haram.

“Boko Haram is a threat that goes beyond the Nigerian borders. Judging by the chaos it has created and that it seems determined to carry on, and the indiscriminate nature of its targeting of victims, the terrorist group is more than a regional threat, it is also a global one,” Bouyoya said. “Its recent allegiance to the group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) can only attest to this. Thus, the fight against that group and others must concern the entire international community.”

Speaking as the representative of a concerned country, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, said that Cameroon was firmly committed to respecting international humanitarian and human rights law. He confirmed that the incident whereby 75 Boko Haram militants had been killed in a Cameroonian prison was being investigated and that those responsible will be prosecuted.

The Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Chad, Mahamat Issa Halikimi, urged African countries to strengthen their voice in the global fight against terrorism and improve coordination among them.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Danjuma Nanpon Sheni, called for support to the internally displaced and refugees, and more concern about the networks that Boko Haram had created with groups such as Al-Shabab and ISIL.

The Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution urging those who provide support and resources to Boko Haram to end that support; and requesting the UN Human Rights Office to prepare a report on the human rights violations committed by the group, to be presented at the Council’s September session.

8 April 2015

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