A damning report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights graphically details a pattern of vicious and widespread atrocities committed by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. In an update at the U.N. Human Rights Council of Boko Haram violations, the high commissioner condemns also reported abusive treatment of Boko Haram victims by Nigerian security forces and regional authorities.
The report shows violations committed by Boko Haram remain as extensive and far-reaching as they were when the U.N. Human Rights Council held a special session on the atrocities committed by the militant group in April.
Interviews by U.N. staff with former captives and survivors of Boko Haram attacks in northeast Nigeria present a distressing picture of horrific abuse stretching back months and even years. They include massacres, the burning down of entire villages, torture and abduction on a massive scale, including of children.
U.N. Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said survivors in Nigeria have given anguishing accounts of mass killings of men and boys gunned down or hacked to death by Boko Haram before the female inhabitants of villages were abducted.
"Women and girls have been sexually enslaved, raped and forced into so-called 'marriages,'" he said. "Many survivors of these horrific experiences are now pregnant by the rapists. It is vital that the authorities ensure that every person who has been responsible for such crimes will be held to account in a court of law."
The high commissioner described the suffering endured by citizens of Cameroon, Chad and Niger over the past year from Boko Haram's pitiless attacks on their towns and villages.
Security forces blamed, too
While condemning these actions, Zeid said he also is concerned about allegations of serious human rights violations committed by the Nigerian military forces. He expressed dismay at reports of ill treatment by Nigerian and regional security forces of adults and even children who had been held captive by Boko Haram and subsequently freed. Zeid said they often are subjected to lengthy periods of detention without charge.
"I must insist on the need for greater attention to human rights by both the military and the police forces in concerned countries when carrying out security operations against Boko Haram," Zeid said. "Failure to uphold these principles could jeopardize recent successes against Boko Haram by driving more people into justifiable mistrust for the authorities."
Acting Foreign Minister of Nigeria Bulu Lolo reiterated his country’s call for the international community to redouble its efforts to end the menace and evil perpetrated by Boko Haram.
"Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS is a wake-up call," Lolo said. "It means that another link has been added to the terrorist chain that now connects other international terrorist groups such as al-Shabab and al-Qaida."
The Nigerian minister warns the association of terrorist groups has wider implications for the peace and stability of not only the sub-region, but Africa and the world at large.