The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2018/250) issued on 29 March 2019.
The ongoing conflict in north-east Nigeria is characterized by widespread attacks against civilians, including sexual violence, the abduction of women and girls for sexual slavery, disappearances and forced displacement, all of which are primarily attributed to Boko Haram. The abduction of women and girls by non-State armed groups for use as sex slaves and/or carriers of person-borne improvised explosive devices is a disturbing feature of the ongoing conflict. Ostracization from the community hampers the reintegration of returnees, which leads to further exclusion from social protection and assistance. Those negative effects are compounded for mothers of children born from rape.
In February 2018, the United Nations documented the kidnapping of 110 school girls in a secondary school in north-east Nigeria, who were subjected by members of Boko Haram to forced marriage, rape and physical and emotional violence. On 21 March, Boko Haram released 107 of the girls. The armed group announced that one girl who had refused to convert to Islam would be kept as a slave. The United S/2019/280 26/35 19-04552 Nations provided medical and psychosocial rehabilitation for the released girls, with counselling for their family members. Another five girls were raped by military officers. One survivor was killed upon the perpetrators learning that she had filed a complaint. Four survivors received medical attention, but declined legal support. However, service provision is generally limited by the lack of access to affected populations. The military leadership in those locations informed service providers that they would ensure the accountability of their officers. Women and girls account for 99 per cent of the victims of reported incidents of sexual violence across Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. Approximately 38 per cent of the incidents of sexual violence reported were perpetrated in the context of trafficking, forced conscription, abduction, kidnapping or other forms of detention.
In October 2017, Nigerian authorities began trials of Boko Haram suspects, with subsequent rounds in February and July 2018 at Wawa Cantonment, in Kainji, Niger State. In the third round of trials, which commenced in July 2018, over 200 defendants, including three women, were tried under the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013. The courts convicted 113 defendants, acquitted 5, and discharged 97 without trial. None of the accused were charged with sexual violence. The outcome is of great concern, as sexual violence plays a dominant role in Boko Haram operations and strategies. In 2018, the national human rights commission in Nigeria constituted a special investigations panel on alleged human rights violations in north-east Nigeria and invited public submissions of allegations of human rights violations committed in north-east Nigeria, including allegations concerning sexual violence against internally displaced persons, the lack of investigations, the sexual exploitation of women and girls in exchange for food and security, and the discrimination and violence against women and girls returning from Boko Haram captivity (pejoratively called “Boko Haram wives”). It is also of great concern that the findings of the Presidential Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement, established in August 2017, are not yet public.
The United Nations continues to support 278,194 people, primarily women and girls, who require medical and psychosocial services. Women and girls have also benefited from livelihood support and dignity kits. In addition, 18 new women-friendly safe spaces were established in areas newly liberated from Boko Haram, enabling women to build social networks, acquire vocational skills and secure referral to pursue care and redress. 200 girls formerly associated with non-State armed groups and forcibly married to Boko Haram insurgents were released by the military to the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. They received rehabilitative care and reintegration support. Finally, the United Nations is finalizing two handbooks on counter-terrorism investigations and on gender dimensions of criminal justice responses to terrorism, specific to Nigeria.
I urge the Nigerian authorities to ensure accountability for crimes of sexual violence, whether perpetrated by armed groups or military officers, and to improve service delivery and support for women and girl survivors in all settings. I further recommend the full consideration of sexual violence when investigating, charging and prosecuting Boko Haram elements and when developing redress programmes for their victims and former captives.