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UN urges Nigeria to ease abortion restrictions for Boko Haram victims

02 July 2015, 14:55

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."

Also Read:Chad forces arrest Boko Haram leader, hold 74 others

"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 commensurate magnitude.

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 cruelty.

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 September.



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