Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the United Nations to “urgently intervene to secure the safe release of 230 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, who were abducted by members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.”
The organization wants the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) of the UN Security Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide “international assistance and support to the Nigerian authorities to secure the release of the children and to ensure that they are back to school.”
In a statement yesterday, signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said that, “continuing abduction of these innocent children is having negative impact on their well-being and long-term education. We are urging these bodies to move swiftly to support efforts to protect schools, teachers, and students from deliberate attack in the North-East of the country.
“In particular, we urge the UN Security Council’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on Children and Armed Conflict to take strong action including referring members of the Boko Haram and their backers to the International Criminal Court. Accountability for attacks on school children and education-including prosecuting perpetrators-is critical to deterring perpetration of crimes under international law,” the group also said.
The group said that, “The International Criminal Court has explicit jurisdiction over intentional attacks against school children and buildings dedicated to education in both international and internal armed conflicts.”
The group said that, “The abduction of the children is also an attack on their right to education, and calls for a strong international effort. Making students, teachers, and schools genuinely expose to non-state armed groups like Boko Haram requires governments, opposition groups, NGOs, and inter-governmental organizations to implement strong measures that are enforced by rigorous monitoring, preventive interventions, rapid response to violations, and accountability for violators of domestic and international law.”
“The attack against children is leading to dramatic decreases in school attendance rates. When attendance remains low over the long term there are negative knock-on effects on the economy and on key development indices such as measures of maternal and child health,” the organization said.
“Under international human rights law, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights both of which Nigeria has ratified, states are obligated to make primary education compulsory and available free to all, and secondary education available and accessible. They must work to progressively improve regular attendance at schools and to reduce drop-out rates for both boys and girls. In order to ensure the right to education, states have an obligation to prevent and respond to attacks by non-state armed groups like Boko Haram so that the schools function and children receive an education. Attacks on students, teachers, and schools will violate various provisions of domestic criminal law,” the group also said.
According to the group, “The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its two additional protocols and customary international law is also binding on parties to the conflict in the North-East of the country. Under international humanitarian law, schools and educational institutions are civilian objects that are protected from deliberate attack unless and only for such time as they are being used by belligerent forces for a military purpose. International humanitarian law also forbids acts or threats of violence with the primary purpose of spreading terror among the civilian population.”
“We urge the Nigerian government to specifically criminalize attacks on students and teachers and prohibit the use of schools for military purposes. We also call on the UN bodies to provide assistance in tracking attacks on schools, teachers, and students, and to help devise an effective response. We believe that while the government is in the best position to monitor attacks, it has so far not demonstrated the will or capacity to do so,” the group also said.