Victims of Boko Haram deserve compensation as of right and will receive it — SERAP

Featured November 7, 2013

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has issued “an Urgent Appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan urging him to “reverse the recently announced policy of zero compensation for victims of Boko Haram attacks.”

The group said that the government should “within 14 days of the publication of this appeal announce compensation and reparation policies for victims of attacks by Boko Haram, and begin a process of establishing mechanisms for the effective and transparent implementation of such policies.”

The group in the Urgent Appeal dated 7 November 2013 and signed by its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni threatened to take “all necessary legal actions nationally and internationally to compel the government to fulfil its international human rights obligations and commitments,” if the government does not comply with its appeal.

The group said that, “In the wake of the devastation by Boko Haram, compensation and reparation programmes are absolutely essential to deliver justice to the victims of human rights abuses precipitated by the group. Paying compensation and reparation to victims of human rights abuses by Boko Haram is a matter of rights and not charity. Refusing or failing to pay adequate compensation and reparation to victims is to buy impunity for perpetrators.”

File: A Boko Haram attack victim

“SERAP is seriously concerned about the policy of your government that there will be no compensation paid to victims of Boko Haram attacks. This policy is a clear violation of the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments to provide effective remedies, including compensation and reparation to victims of serious human rights abuses such as those perpetrated by Boko Haram,” the group also stated.

According to the group, “The attacks against innocent citizens by the Boko Haram constitute gross violations of international human rights law, having being systematically perpetrated, and affecting in qualitative and quantitative terms, the most basic rights of human beings, notably the right to life and the right to physical and moral integrity of the human person. These serious human rights abuses have in turn contributed to deliberate and systematic deprivation of basic necessities of life such as essential foodstuffs, access to education for many Nigerian children, essential health care or basic shelter and housing.”

“In the first place, it is the primary duty of any government to guarantee the security of the population, and the absence of concrete measures has contributed to the continuation of violence. The government’s failure on internal security is also a serious breach of the government’s human rights obligations and commitments, including under the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party,” the organization further said.

The group said therefore that, “victims of violence and crimes must have effective access to legal and health services, and should have access to an effective remedy, including compensation and reparation.”

According to the group, “The fundamental principles of compensation for human rights abuses are well grounded in international human rights treaties and standards to which this country has subscribed. In particular, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law require governments to protect and promote human rights through action to combat impunity.”

The group also quoted the Permanent Court of International Justice as stating in the Chorzow Factory case that “It is a principle of international law that the breach of an engagement involves an obligation to make a reparation in an adequate form.”

“Under international law, compensation should be provided for any economically assessable damage, and proportional to the gravity of the violation and the circumstances of each case, resulting from gross violations of international human rights law, such as loss of lives, lost opportunities, loss of earnings and moral damage,” the group added.

“If victims of arbitrary detention could collectively receive compensation and reparation in countries like Argentina, there is no moral or legal basis for the government not to do the same for the victims of Boko Haram that have suffered greater level of human rights abuses. Even in Turkey the government established compensation and reparation schemes for the victims of internal displacement. Brazil established compensation and reparation schemes for the victims of disappearance and death of non-natural causes in police or similar premises. And Chile and Morocco did the

same for the victims of deadly political violence, political executions and disappearance while in detention. There are other examples too numerous to mention here,” the group also argued.

The group concluded that, “The right to compensation and reparation imposes on this government the duty to provide redress for harm suffered by victims of Boko Haram, in the form of restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and, as the case may be, guarantees of non-repetition. This right also imposes a duty on the government to provide effective domestic remedies.”