#BringBackOurGirls: a year without news of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram

Paris, 13 April 2015 - Tomorrow a year will have passed since 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped at Chibok by the Nigerian armed group Boko Haram. While some of the girls managed to escape, rumours have recently circulated in the press that the others may have been murdered. The Nigerian authorities must determine their whereabouts and inform the families, protect those who may still be alive and return them to their families.

On 14 April 2014 the fundamentalist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls at Chibok, in the State of Borno in northern Nigeria. The tragic event drew the attention of the international community to the crimes committed by Boko Haram over the past ten years, which have repeatedly targeted women and girls. It is not by chance that Boko Haram has attacked schoolgirls. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, and al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram targets women who receive an education, declared Khadija Cherif, coordinator of the FIDH Action Group for Women’s Rights. By kidnapping women and girls, the armed group aims to deprive them of their right to education. After the abductions, the group announced that the schoolgirls would be sold, married by force and reduced to slavery. There were reports that several girls had been raped and it is feared they may have been killed

Jonathan Goodluck’s government failed to prevent these crimes, to prosecute and punish the perpetrators and to protect the victims. The new President must do better, and fast, declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

FIDH strongly urges the Nigerian authorities to take all necessary measures, in accordance with international human rights law, to localise and protect the girls. Nigeria has an obligation to guarantee their security, their physical and moral integrity, and their right to justice and reparation. The government must also urgently inform the families of the girls’ fate; the uncertainty surrounding their circumstances is unbearable.

FIDH also urges the Multinational Joint Task Force 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.

FIDH underlines that such crimes 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 the absence of genuine proceedings in Nigeria to bring those responsible to justice, the ICC should open an investigation.

Since 2009, it is estimated that almost 13 000 persons have been killed by Boko Haram mainly in northern Nigeria and approximately 1.5 million people are refugees or have been internally displaced by the conflict. In the state of Borno alone, Boko Haram is reported to have kidnapped between 500 and 2,000 women since 2013, targeting students and teachers in particular. In February 2015, FIDH released a report “Nigeria: mass crimes of Boko Haram” (in French), which documents the crimes of Boko Haram since its creation in 2002.

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