Nigeria and AU ‘must act against Boko Haram’

2015-01-16 12:58

The General Council of the Bar of South Africa has called on Nigeria and the African Union to take urgent steps against Boko Haram for its mounting crimes against humanity.

“The council is concerned at the mounting evidence of serious crimes against humanity including mass murder, rape and persecution, committed by the armed group Boko Haram in north east Nigeria,” its chairperson Jeremy Muller SC said on Friday.

“The slaughter of unarmed civilians, last year’s mass abduction of young schoolgirls, and the systematic attacks on schools constitute serious violations of Article Seven of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and grave breaches of the convention on the rights of the child,” he said.

Article Seven of the statute states that crimes against humanity are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population with knowledge of the attack.

Crimes against humanity are listed as murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, deportation or forced transfer of population, torture, rape or sexual slavery, persecution against a group and the disappearance of people.

Various media agencies reported that Boko Haram launched a string of attacks in Baga on January 3, killing about 2 000 people and resulting in thousands fleeing to neighbouring countries.

However, Nigeria’s government said the death toll was no more than 150 people.

The German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that Boko Haram wanted to create an Islamist state, and killed more than 3 000 people last year.

Muller said the council wanted the Nigerian government and the AU to take urgent and effective steps to ensure the perpetrators were brought to justice.

“The first weeks of 2015 have seen a disturbing escalation of Boko Haram’s increasing onslaught against civilian populations, with several towns and villages ... being attacked and razed to the ground,” he said.

Muller also welcomed the South African government’s condemnation of the attacks.

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