United Nations human rights experts have welcomed the release of 21 Chibok school girls from Boko Haram and called upon Nigerians – particularly their families and local communities – to support their immediate reintegration and rehabilitation.
UN Special Rapporteurs on, respectively, the sale of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, slavery, Urmila Bhoola, and the right to health, Dainius Puras, lauded the Nigerian authorities for the success of their negotiations while simultaneously calling upon institutions and communities to ensure that the girls would experience a full recovery and be protected from “stigma, ostracisation, and rejection” in a joint news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
They underscored that a full recovery could be challenging and that in order for the girls, to be adequately rehabilitated, they would need solidarity from the Nigerian people.
“The recently released girls may not be able to access the services they need, including sexual and reproductive health services, information on remedies and livelihoods opportunities,” the Special Rapporteurs advised in a statement. “We urge all levels of Government to take all the measures needed to provide these services not only to these girls but to all individuals who have been rescued from Boko Haram control.”
The experts added that such support is not only a moral obligation, but a fulfilment of women and children’s legal rights under international law.
The girls were released last week after Boko Haram abducted them in the middle of the night in April of 2014 from their school dormitory in Chibok. The release was welcomed by UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who encouraged the international community to support their rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, 197 of the 276 girls who were abducted are still missing. The UN Special Rapporteurs called upon the international and Nigerian communities to not forget that they continue to live in captivity and urged the Nigerian Government to take immediate measures to locate them and ensure their safe return. “Nigeria must,” they said, “hold the perpetrators accountable, while respecting international human rights norms.”
They called for “a comprehensive approach to addressing challenges in the North East [of Nigeria] provides a good opportunity not only to reintegrate women and children affected by Boko Haram but also to strengthen the health and educational sectors which are crucial for peace, security, and sustainable development in Nigeria.”
The Special Rapporteurs also referred to a report that was issued after a joint visit to Nigeria in January of this year and maintained their ongoing assistance and willingness to provide further advice and support in order to ensure that all of the missing girls can return home.
Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.