GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Delegates to a special U.N. session are urging a more vigorous global response to stop the terrorist threat posed by the militant Nigerian group Boko Haram. They say the group still presents a serious danger despite recent military setbacks.
In opening the meeting, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said the appalling atrocities committed by Boko Haram have created a human rights crisis resulting in at least 15,000 deaths since 2009 in northern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.
“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 ... This despicable and wanton carnage, which constitutes a clear and urgent menace for development, peace and security, must be stopped. Boko Haram’s leaders must know that they will be held accountable in a court of law for these appalling violations of human rights,” he said.
Zeid said intensified incursions by the group into neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger have spread bloodshed and desolation. He said responses to these massive violations must be strong, coordinated and principled.
Former Burundian president and the current High Representative of the African Union for Mali and the Sahel, Pierre Buyoya, spoke about AU efforts to combat Boko Haram. Speaking through an interpreter, he said the bloc was seeking to promote cooperation on security because no country alone could face the threat posed by the militants.
“This terrorist group is more than a regional threat, it is a global threat. Its recent declaration of allegiance to the Islamic State can only confirm this. Hence, combating this group and its allies must be the goal of the international community as a whole,” he said.
Permanent Secretary of Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Danjuma Nanpon Sheni called Boko Haram a faceless monster that was a major threat to the peace, security and freedom - though he acknowledged the group has taken a major hit on the battlefield this year.
“With the cooperation of the international community, including the four most affected countries, progress has been achieved. More than four-fifth of the territories seized by Boko Haram were retaken within the last six weeks,” he said.
Ambassador Sheni said the election of a new president in Nigeria and other successes were an indication of what could be achieved when countries worked together in the fight against terrorism.
The session began with tributes honoring Somalia’s ambassador to Switzerland, Yusuf Bari-Bari, who was slain Friday in a terrorist attack on a hotel in Mogadishu by al-Shabab militants. Several speakers expressed regret and sadness at the death of a man they described as a staunch defender of human rights.
High Commissioner Zeid decried what he called the senseless death of a good man whose life was cut short by a vicious terrorist attack.