The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Navi Pillay, has urged Nigerians not to allow the violent activities of Boko Haram to precipitate retaliatory attacks that will divide the country.
Pillay said this yesterday in Geneva, Zurich in a briefing while reacting to the violence across Nigeria, following the increasing attacks by Boko Haram sect.
She said, "The religious tolerance that has been a central tenet of Nigeria's federation is being threatened, and I urge all Nigeria's leaders to avoid falling into the trap of calling for, or sanctioning, retaliation or making other provocative statements. Everybody will be the loser if Boko Haram succeeds in its aim and efforts to sow discord between Muslims and Christians, or pit Northerners against Southerners.
"The fact that people are already leaving some areas where they are in a minority, out of fear of reprisal attacks by the majority, shows just how dangerous this is becoming for the country as a whole. Anyone inciting violence or hatred must be held accountable, no matter who they are."
In its video message released on Wednesday on You Tube, Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, had claimed that the sect carried out attacks against Christians to revenge the killings of Muslims by Christians in some parts of the North.
On how to fight the group, Pillay urged the government, religious and opinion leaders to make a bold and concerted effort to halt the spread of sectarian violence as a result of Boko Haram attacks.
She said, "It is essential that the country's leadership, and especially its Muslim and Christian leaders, join forces to unequivocally condemn all violence, including retaliation, and encourage their followers to identify and help arrest all those involved in killings and other acts of violence that have been taking place."
She, however, called on security forces not to violate the fundamental human rights of people while conducting operations in areas under threat of attacks. "
On the legal implications of Boko Haram attacks, the UN High Commissioner said, "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 - could 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." She pointed out that the International Criminal Court was established to hold individuals and groups accountable for violent activities. "There must be no impunity for any acts of violence, including those committed in retaliation for earlier attacks," Pillay added.