[JURIST] Militant group Boko Haram [JURIST news archive] has forced kidnapped women and girls to marry their captors and begun using them for military tactical purposes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF; summary] Monday. HRW interviewed 30 individuals who were abducted by the group between April 2013 and April 2014 and 16 others who saw the abductions. According to the advocacy group, more than 500 women and girls have been taken hostage by Boko Haram since 2009, about 30 of whom were taken just last Thursday [BBC report]. The group was taken from the Borno state area and included girls as young as 11. At least 40 women and girls were taken [AFP report] in Adamawa a week prior, despite government claims of a ceasefire deal. Once at the camps, the kidnapped girls are reportedly forced to perform household chores and are often exposed to rape, forced marriage and violence, with one woman recounting that she was threatened with death until she converted to Islam. HRW criticized authorities for not doing enough to prevent the kidnappings, for not working to bring the perpetrators to justice and for not providing survivors with adequate support and medical care.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin,” has been fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government in the interest of creating an Islamist state. The group was criticized [JURIST report] in May by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) after it claimed responsibility for kidnapping more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in April and announced plans to sell and “marry them off.” US President Obama promised to send resources for investigatory purposes, sharply criticizing the perpetrators and calling Boko Haram “one of the worst regional or local terrorist organizations … in Nigeria.” However, Boko Haram’s actions have caused other extrinsic problems as well. In March Amnesty International released a report finding that some responses by Nigerian security forces to attacks by Boko Haram have themselves been in conflict with human rights standards [JURIST report]. Earlier in March former UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay called [JURIST report] on the Nigerian government to focus on protecting human rights and not to “exacerbate” violence in its response to attacks by Boko Haram. Last August the International Criminal Court expressed its finding [JURIST report] that there existed a “reasonable basis” to believe that Boko Haram was guilty of crimes against humanity.