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Sale of Girls by Boko Haram Could 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.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights warns the reported intention by Boko Haram to sell abducted girls into “slavery” 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 released Monday by the alleged leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria. In that video, he referred to the abducted girls as slaves and said he would sell them in the market and marry them off.

UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville warns the members of this militant Islamic group that they 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 says these actions constitute crimes against humanity.

"There is no statute of limitations for very serious international crimes, especially crimes against humanity," said Colville. "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.”

'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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