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UN agency commends conviction of Nigerian army officer who raped 14-year-old girl at Borno IDP Camp

THE United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) has commended the conviction of military personnel for sexual crimes towards a 14-year-old girl who was a victim of Boko Haram insurgency living at the Bakassi Internally Displaced Persons’ Camp, in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The humanitarian group said her condition was one of several sexual violence experienced by women residing in different IDP camps in the country from the military personnel who are supposed to protect them.

The UN Human Rights disclosed the impunity in the Northeast in a statement published on its website titled “Northeast Nigeria: addressing impunity for sexual violence amidst a decade-long conflict” and also shared on its Twitter handle on Thursday.

A flight lieutenant was prosecuted after he attacked and raped a 14-year-old girl residing at Bakassi IDP camp. The girl, that fateful day, only went out to collect firewood, it reported.

The medical records confirming the rape were initially seized by the military to hide the crime. But after “intense lobbying from UN Human Rights”, the military tribunal convicted the lieutenant in April.

“This was the first conviction by a military tribunal of serving military personnel for sexual crimes against internally displaced women in northeast Nigeria,” the report read partly.

Dwelling on the success, the humanitarian group called on Nigerian women and girls residing at IDP camps to share their experiences of sexual violence.  

Yassine Gaba, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria said: “The case was not isolated”.

“Women are afraid to recount the horror of their experiences, so sexual violence in the area is far too underreported,” he added. “We hope that this can set a precedent for further convictions and investigations, and can encourage more women to come forward.”

The Boko Haram conflicts in northeast Nigeria have affected many residents. Starting in 2009, the agency estimated that 1.8 million have been forced from their homes, while about 27,000 people were killed.

As the conflict continues into its tenth year, the OHCHR noted that women and girls in the country have become vulnerable to abduction, rape, exploitation, sexual slavery, and forced and early marriage. 

“Nearly two-thirds of women in the northeast have experienced one or more forms of gender-based violence. Rape in the camps for displaced persons has become an epidemic,” the report stated.

“The trauma does not fade, it just repeats,” said Edward Kallon, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator. “Some of the women who survived abuses by Boko Haram are now facing discrimination and sexual attacks by the very people who are supposed to protect them.”

An earlier report by the Amnesty Internationa, a global rights organisation also noted that thousands of women faced serious abuse and neglect in the IDP Camps. The combination of movement restrictions and lack of assistance, it added, left them at an increased risk of sexual exploitation by members of the security forces, present in and around the camps.

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