Saturday, 23 June 2012

News Release: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Condemns Boko Haram’s Attacks On “Religious Freedom”

We are extremely concerned by the wave of violence and killings unleashed by the latest deadly bomb attacks on churches by the Boko Haram group in Nigeria. Since several churches were attacked by Boko Haram in Kaduna last Sunday (17 June), it is estimated that over a hundred people have been killed; some 30 of them in the initial attacks and subsequent retaliation by Christian youths who set up check points. The rest were reportedly killed in clashes between the security forces and Muslims protesting at the deadly retaliatory acts by the Christians, and most recently in clashes between the security forces and alleged insurgents in Damaturu.

We condemn the repeated attacks by Boko Haram on places of worship and on religious freedom, as well as its blatant attempts to stir sectarian tensions and violence between two communities that have lived together peacefully for so long. We encourage local and national authorities to take effective measures to assist victims. Members of Boko Haram and other groups and entities, if judged to have committed widespread or systematic attacks against a civilian population, including on grounds such as religion or ethnicity, are likely to be found guilty of crimes against humanity. Deliberate acts leading to population “cleansing” on grounds of religion or ethnicity would also amount to a crime against humanity.

 We also urge the authorities to take measures to curb inflammatory or hate-speech and to work with all stakeholders including civil society and religious leaders to help deal with this deadly threat. It is encouraging that some religious leaders have been working together to avoid such flare-ups of retaliatory violence. The Anglican Archbishop of Jos, for example, recently made an important statement after some other attacks on churches urging people to stay calm and saying that reprisals were "futile" and only served to aggravate the situation. We urge him and other Muslim and Christian leaders to redouble their efforts to contain these extremely dangerous manifestations of religious intolerance and inter-communal violence.

Rupert Colville,
Spokesperson For The UN High Commissioner For Human Rights.

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