Summary: ADF International Legal Counsel Ewelina Ochab was interviewed by Loredana Vuoto for CNA on #BringBackOurGirls & the situation in Nigeria
18 April 2016
The interview was conducted with ADF International Legal Counsel Ewelina Ochab by Loredana Vuoto for CNA
Despite the global outcry for these kidnapped girls, why have they still not been released?
The fact that two years after the kidnapping 219 girls are still missing, is a manifestation of the failings of the Nigerian government to address the situation accordingly. Although some progress has been made over the last couple of weeks and government troops have advanced on Boko Haram territory, the fundamentalists are as powerful as ever. Many are still suffering under their reign of terror, including the abducted schoolgirls of Chibok. But it is not only the national government that is to blame for allowing Boko Haram to continue terrorizing the north-east of Nigeria. Also, the ignorance of the international community in spite of global mobilization via social media is striking. The only way to end the plight of the Nigerian people afflicted upon them by Boko Haram is a joint effort of domestic and international bodies.
Are Christians in Nigeria still in danger? Has the situation gotten worse?
Over the last two years, the situation in Nigeria has deteriorated. Book Haram established their so-called caliphate in many regions in northern Nigeria. The lack of an adequate response to the terrorist group has had a negative impact on the situation in other regions of the country as well. The reports of attacks by another group of Islamist terrorists, the Muslim Fulani herdsmen, are increasing. They are targeting Christian farmers in the Middle Belt. Because of the rise of terrorism, Nigeria was ranked as third on the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, which measures the impact of terrorism around the world. From 2013- 2014, the number of terrorism-related deaths increased by 306 percent. On 1 March 2016 the World Watch List reported a 62 percent increase in the violent killings of Christians in northern Nigeria. Thousands of Christians have been killed over the last few years. More than a million people have fled the shocking violence and have become refugees in their own country. As a result, 13,000 churches have been closed or destroyed altogether.
What should the global response be to this tragedy?
In order to try to free the kidnapped schoolgirls and prevent similar crimes in the future, the international community has to be involved in stabilizing the region, maintaining peace and security, facilitating the political process, protecting civilians, assisting in the disarmament of the Boko Haram regions, protecting and promoting human rights, and assisting in restoring the rule of law. Nigeria’s serious efforts to end Boko Haram’s rule in the north will not suffice. The terrorist group does not stay within the borders of one country. Therefore, one country alone cannot solve the problem. It needs a joint global effort and international bodies like the UN Security Council to be involved in this effort. Only an international tribunal like the International Criminal Court can bring justice to the victims and prosecute the perpetrators accordingly.
What are some concrete steps to be taken to free these girls?
While the International Criminal Court (ICC) can go after the terrorist leaders on an international level and make sure that the perpetrators are tried and convicted for their crimes, it will take troops on the ground to fight Boko Haram and liberate their captives. The schoolgirls of Chibok are representative of thousands of women and girls that have been kidnapped over the last few years. Shockingly, the international community including the ICC has been aware of the magnitude of the atrocities for a long time. The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC confirmed that the first reported communications in relation to alleged crimes against humanity date back to 2005. In 2010 the ICC initiated preliminary examinations. And yet, to date, this preliminary examination has not been concluded. Meanwhile, the situation continues to deteriorate.
Is there hope for these kidnapped girls?
As time goes by, the prospect of rescuing the girls of Chibok is diminishing. They were reportedly forced into marriages, sold into slavery, or presented to individual terrorists as a prize for their service. Non-Muslim girls were forced to convert to Islam. There are also reports indicating that some of the schoolgirls were used as suicide bombers in Cameroon. Urgent action is needed to respond to such inhumane acts. In the last few weeks, Nigerian media reported on successful rescue missions by the army in which many captives were freed. Sadly, the girls of Chibok were not amongst them.
This interview was part of the CNA-article Two years after Boko Haram’s schoolgirl kidnappings, has anything changed?