#BringBackOurGirls: schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram are still missing

Press release
en es

Paris – Two years ago, 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped at Chibok by the Nigerian Islamist armed group Boko Haram. While some of the girls managed to escape, there were reports that the others were raped, enslaved, or brainwashed to fight for the group. Rumours also circulated that some may have been killed. Our organisations denounce the lack of action of Nigerian authorities, which have failed to determine their whereabouts, inform the families, protect those who may still be alive, return them to their families and bring the perpetrators of these atrocities to justice.

On 14 April 2014 the fundamentalist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls at Chibok, in the State of Borno in northern Nigeria. This crime drew the attention of the international community to the crimes committed by Boko Haram over the past ten years. While 57 of the Chibok schoolgirls managed to escape, there were reports that the others had been sold, raped, married by force, reduced to slavery, forced to convert to Islam, brainwashed to carrying out beatings, floggings and killings for the benefit of the terrorist group, and that some might have been murdered. Meanwhile and using the same methods, Boko Haram continues to spread terror among the population of northern Nigeria. In March 2015, it is estimated that 400 people, mostly women and children, were abducted in Damasak when Boko Haram fighters, driven away from the city by Nigerian and Chadian armies, took by force their hostages with them. Like Chibok schoolgirls, these 400 hostages’ whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

It is not by chance that Boko Haram targeted schoolgirls. In several countries, the rise of fundamentalist groups is accompanied by unprecedented violence, aimed at depriving women and girls of their rights, including their right to education. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ISIS in Iraq and Syria and al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram targets students and teachers, ransacks and destroys schools. In 2004, Boko Haram’s founder began to advocate for the establishment of an education system based on Koranic schools. In 2006, in the State of Borno, he set up a parallel Islamic education system with Koranic schools, high-schools and universities, in order to welcome students excluded of a public and ultra selective system inherited from the British colonies and launched its slogan "Boko Haram". Women and girls are encouraged to attend Koranic schools or marry. “Leave Western education, ladies, go and get married”, stated Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram. Boko Haram started abducting girls, especially students, massively in early 2013. According to UNICEF, more than one million children were forced out of school.

As Boko Haram’s actions were increasing in frequency and intensity, the Nigerian military response remained inadequate and too often marked by serious human rights violations. In December 2015, Nigeria President, Muhammadu Buhari, said his administation had no reliable information on the whereabouts of the Chibok schoolgirls.

“Nigerian authorities’ failure in the fight against Boko Haram is appalling. Muhammadu Buhari’s government has not done better than his predecessor’s. They both failed to prevent these crimes, prosecute the perpetrators, hold them accountable and protect the victims. In the meantime, Boko Haram’s attacks on women’s right and the right to education continue unabated.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President


FIDH and its member organisation in Nigeria, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), strongly urge the Nigerian authorities to take all necessary measures, in accordance with international human rights law, to localise and protect the girls as well as all those abducted by Boko Haram. Nigeria has an obligation to guarantee their security, their physical and moral integrity, and their right to justice and reparation. Deradicalization programmes might also be needed. The government must urgently inform the families of the hostages’ fate; the uncertainty surrounding their circumstances is unbearable.

Our organisations also urge military forces fighting the Islamist group to strictly respect human rights standards during operations conducted against Boko Haram. Respect of human rights within the framework of the legitimate fight against terrorism is crucial, not only to comply with international law but also to ensure the support of the population against the criminal actions of Boko Haram and address the root causes of such extremism.

Our organisations underline that such crimes, which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity [1], fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and are currently under examination by the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC. In 2015, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC continued to receive allegations of crimes perpetrated by Boko Haram against women and girls, including the use of female suicide bombers, abductions, sexual violence and murders. In the absence of genuine proceedings in Nigeria to bring those responsible to justice, the ICC should open an investigation.

Read more