New York - Zeid Al-Hussein, UN Human Rights
Chief, has appealed to Nigerian authorities to ease abortion
restrictions for women and girls who had been sexually enslaved, raped
and forced into so-called "marriages" by Boko Haram fighters.
He said this on Thursday in New York, while discussing with the Human
Rights Council on Boko Haram's rights violations and abuses, the
findings of a 12-member team to Cameroon, southern Niger and the
north-eastern regions of Nigeria on Boko Haram.
Al-Hussein said interviews had confirmed that during their captivity
lasting for months or even years, women and girls were sexually
enslaved, raped and forced into marriages.
The Rights group chief said as a result of this, many survivors of the horrific experiences are now pregnant for their rapists.
Al-Hussein also drew attention to the situation of many formerly
captive women and young girls, who are pregnant and their reported wish
to terminate these unwanted pregnancies.
"I note that abortion is legal in Nigeria only when the life of the woman is at risk."
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"Human rights mechanisms have consistently called for ensuring
access to safe abortion services beyond the protection of the woman's
life, including in cases of rape, and to preserve the health of the
woman," he said.
The Rights chief said as a result of the unwanted pregnancies, government should have a rethink over the abortion law.
"Taking this into account, I strongly urge the most compassionate
possible interpretation of the current regulations in Nigeria, to
include the risk of suicide and risks to mental health for women and
young girls, who have suffered such appalling cruelty."
He said it had already become clear that the violations committed by
Boko Haram were extensive and far-reaching, demanding a response of
Al-Hussein said the survivors in Nigeria gave distressing witness
accounts of gruesome mass killings of men and boys, whom Boko Haram
grouped together and gunned down or hacked to death with sadistic
He told the Council that it was encouraging to see governmental control being re-established over key areas of Nigeria.
Also Read: UN asks Nigeria to ease abortion restrictions for Boko Haram rape victims
"These improvements in the immediate security situation give us hope
for peace, and that the authorities will be able to address the root
causes of this crisis."
He also insisted 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.
"Protection of civilians must be a paramount concern in all military
operations, with respect for the strict rules of engagement that protect
human rights and international humanitarian law."
Al-Hussein advised that donors and the UN Country Teams, should begin
focusing programmes to meet the needs of the people of the sub-region,
to repair the damage caused by Boko Haram, and to ensure that such a
movement never emerged again .
He also called on international community to help Nigeria and its neighbours, to repair the damage caused by Boko Haram.
The Rights chief said the team planned to visit Chad next, and a full
written report would be presented to the Human Rights Council in