The UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Wednesday urging the international community to step up efforts to contain the spread of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram and to extend "active and multifaceted support to Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and other states affected by the actions of the terrorist group."
The council had convened in Geneva for a rare special session to study the resolution, which was submitted by a group of African nations and endorsed early on by countries such as France, Russia, and Venezuela.
The resolution stipulates that any international assistance should be provided "upon request and in close collaboration with the respective governments" of the countries most affected by the radical Islamist insurgency.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein opened the special session by reminding delegates that Boko Haram militants have killed at least 15,000 people since 2009. He described the human rights situation in northern Nigeria and in the neighboring Lake Chad region as "critical."
"Countless more children, women, and men have been abducted, abused, and forcibly recruited," Zeid told the assembly, adding that there was evidence of militants using children as "expendable cannon fodder" and "human bombs."
Singling out the case of a 14-year-old girl carrying a baby on her back who detonated a bomb in a marketplace, Zeid said that "these reports, if confirmed by a court of law, would constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity."
Zeid said that young girls and women were particularly vulnerable to Boko Haram violence, noting that they are targeted for "horrific abuse, including sexual enslavement," and that they are often killed by militants as they retreat from advancing government troops.
Boko Haram — which roughly translates to "Western education is a sin" — is infamous for its abductions of young girls, who are married off or sold as slaves. The most high-profile kidnapping took place almost a year ago in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok, where the group went on an abduction rampage, seizing 276 schoolgirls aged 16 to 18 from the Government Girls Secondary School.
While a few of the girls were able to escape their attackers, many are still missing, despite a global #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign that garnered support from high-profile figures, including US First Lady Michelle Obama.
The adoption of the resolution comes just a day after Boko Haram suffered a major defeat in northeastern Nigeria. On Tuesday, regional forces won back control of Malam Fatori, a town on the border with Niger, where militants had sought refuge after being driven out of other strongholds in the north of the country.
Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria's new president-elect, has pledged to defeat the insurgent group. Speaking in Abuja on Wednesday, Buhari said that the insurgents would "soon know the strength of our collective will and of our commitment to rid the nation of terror and bring back peace."
According to the new resolution, the UN will compilea list of all Boko Haram atrocities to hold the perpetrators to account and bring them to justice.