News / Africa

UN: Sale of Girls by Boko Haram Would Be Crime Against Humanity

Protesters march in support of the girls kidnapped by members of Boko Haram in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C., May 6, 2014.
Protesters march in support of the girls kidnapped by members of Boko Haram in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C., May 6, 2014.
Lisa Schlein
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the reported intention by Boko Haram to sell abducted girls as slaves could constitute a crime against humanity. The militant group reportedly has kidnapped eight more girls in northeastern Nigeria. This follows last month’s abduction of more than 300 schoolgirls.
The U.N. Human Rights office is condemning the outrageous claims made in a video by the alleged leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria Monday. In that video, he referred to the abducted girls as slaves and said he would sell them in the market and marry them off.
U.N. Human Rights Commission spokesman Rupert Colville said Tuesday the members of this militant Islamic group will pay a price for their crimes. He said there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law.  And under certain circumstances, he said, these can constitute crimes against humanity.
“There is no statute of limitations for very serious international crimes, especially crimes against humanity ...  Slavery, sexual slavery under international law can be considered as crimes against humanity. That means anyone responsible can be arrested and charged and prosecuted and jailed at any time in the future.  So, just because they think they are safe now, they will not necessarily be in two years, five years, 10 years’ time,” said Colville. 
There are specific criteria for an act to reach the level of crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court defines such offenses as "particularly odious" and that constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or degradation of human beings. It also says such acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity if they are part of a government policy, tolerated by a government, or if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice.
Last year, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court referred to reports of murder and persecution by Boko Haram to justify its belief that the Islamic group committed crimes against humanity.

'All necessary measures'

Three weeks ago, Boko Haram abducted more than 300 schoolgirls from their dormitory in Chibok in Borno State in northern Nigeria. Some have escaped, but the kidnappers hold more than 270 girls. The Nigerian government has been widely criticized for not doing enough to find and free these girls.

In commenting on Boko Haram’s intention to sell the abducted girls, Colville said the consequences of forced marriage can be absolutely devastating. He said the power differentials between the girls and their so-called spouses are likely to strip them of autonomy and undermine their freedom of will and expression.

“The situation will be tantamount to slavery or slavery-like practices within the so-called marriage. It is also likely to expose them to continuous physical, psychological, economic, and sexual violence and also, probably, restrictions of movement," he said. "So, it is a totally devastating experience for anyone to have to go through.”  

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, is urging Nigerian authorities to take all necessary measures, consistent with human rights, to protect their people from the violations and crimes perpetrated by Boko Haram.

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Comments page of 2
by: kizito from: abuja
May 14, 2014 12:53 AM
us should not only send intellgence and logistic team, they should also come with combat team and embark on full military operation. Because there is only but one path..... :We kill them all:

by: helen from: USA
May 12, 2014 11:31 AM
some girls escaped,escaped or killed for not turning to islam

by: Eric from: New York
May 12, 2014 8:30 AM
Everything possible? Ask the USA to send a Marine Expeditionary Unit to come kill them all. The girls would be home in a week

by: Debi Brand from: Claremore, OK
May 08, 2014 11:14 PM

“Slavery, sexual slavery under international law can be considered as crimes against humanity.”

And well they should be.

As so too should be, cold blooded murdering, burning down churches and houses because one openly apologetically rejects the teachings of Muhammad.

But the problem is, that mentioned murdering, destroying, and enslavement are part of the teachings of the Qur’an and the example and instruction of/in the traditions of their prophet.

This is all just part of their basic belief system.

Add to that, the “believer” is Allah-commanded to not harm the prophet. Finding fault in him and the deen he brought counts as harming him. Dishonoring him. Thus, obligates the believer to defend the honor of their prophet.

So we will see more murders, more abductions, more destroying of churches, home, and businesses by arson as more “believers’ obey Allah’s command, and follow the Sunnah of their prophet.

In short: wherever Islam is practiced, Islam will be practiced.

by: Markus from: Sandy
May 07, 2014 2:45 PM
Rubbish comment. It is baffling that the UN is waiting for this nefarious group to commit more evil before they declare their actions as crimes against humanity as if these hideous crimes are not crime enough. Shows how sterile the UN and its leadership has become.

by: Banduren from: UT
May 07, 2014 2:40 PM
This UN comment is as outrageous as the crimes themselves. Why are they putting an if clause on these horrible groups. Boko haram has already committed numerous crimes against humanity and the UN is waiting for them commit more before they declare these evil actions as crimes against humanity. Perhaps if these actions were committed Syria or North Korea or Iran, then they will have more weight. I am baffled. It shows that this world group is seriously becoming irrelevant.

by: mike tomaszewski from: lancaster, ny usa
May 07, 2014 12:11 PM
If these girls are sold, then every Boko Harum individual caught by the government should be sold into slavery in some other country. See how they like it from the receiving end

by: Not Again from: Canada
May 07, 2014 8:02 AM
The UN as usual is in the dark ages when it comes to Islamist crimes; everything that this terrorist, Boko Haram, org does is crimes against humanity, all their past attacks deliberately targeted civilians; the massacre of the school boys; the bus bombings; the market bombings, attacking Cristians, attacking churches,... etc.

More importantly, people purchasing and having slaves is also a crime against humanity....It appears that the UN continues to go slow and easy, as usual, on Islamists and their very serious crimes; one can only see this situation as an inherent organizational bias! I wonder why, could it be due to the composition of the HR org???

by: markjuliansmith from: Canberra
May 07, 2014 6:37 AM
UN warns Boko Haram", as they warned Syria, as they warned North Korea, as they warned .... I am once again reminded of Lincoln's view of Douglas (UN) " of them brags about what he means to do. He jumps in the air cracking his heels together, smites his fists, and wastes his breath trying to scare somebody." Nobody inclusive of Boko Haram are 'scared'. Boko Haram will just continue to do as they do, as their Islamic cultural codex justifies and authorises. Change the Architect and Builder or Change Nothing. As we see more school girls have been taken, Change the Islamic codex construct of Other and women or Change Nothing.

by: Hamidi from: Kabul Afghanistan
May 07, 2014 5:32 AM
We are all humans, and we should pay our full attention to the rights of even each living soul who living on the earth because everyone and every living has its own freedom of life, the only diversity between humans and Animals is that the creator of the Nature donated the tongue as a biggest gift which we could stay in touch with each other and reach the agreement.
So why kidnapping? Why violence? Why the trade of the girls? And why we need the rule and law of UN?
Finally we should be human and we should act as human, let’s stop the beast activities against our society
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