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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has written to President Goodluck Jonathan asking him to ensure that Nigerian children have access to education.
While expressing his concern at the inability of government to rescue the students of the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State abducted by Boko Haram, Pillay condemned the action and called on the perpetrators to free the girls with immediate effect.
A statement by issued her spokesperson, Rupert Colville, in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday said: "We are deeply concerned about the outrageous claims made in a video believed to be by the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria yesterday, in which he brazenly says he will sell the abducted schoolgirls “in the market” and ‘marry them off,’ referring to them as ‘slaves.’
"We condemn the violent abduction of these girls, reportedly at gunpoint from their school in Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria.
"We warn the perpetrators that there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law.
"These can, under certain circumstances, constitute crimes against humanity. The girls must be immediately returned, unharmed, to their families."
Colville said the High Commissioner had contacted the President of Nigeria and urged the government to ensure that it spared no effort to ensure the safe return of the girls to their homes and communities.
In a letter signed by Navi Pillay, along with the Executive Director of UN Women, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, the four African UN women leaders reminded the Nigerian government of its legal responsibility to ensure that girls and boys had the fundamental rights to education and to be protected from violence, persecution and intimidation.
During her visit to Nigeria earlier this year, the High Commissioner said the actions of Boko Haram had grown increasingly monstrous.
According to her, the group had targeted some people simply because of their religion or professional occupation – and in this case, simply because the girls were enrolled in school.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the authorities to take all necessary measures, consistent with human rights, to protect people from these violations and crimes.
She stressed the need for local state authorities and the federal government to cooperate fully.
"Failure to undertake effective measures that are within the authorities' means to protect people is a violation of human rights," she added.
She also urged states assisting Nigeria in its counter-terrorism operations to also ensure that they stay within the remits of international.