Reaction to Reuters report on Nigerian military abortion programme

A Nigerian woman, unnamed to protect her identity, who told Reuters she received an abortion under a secret program run by the Nigerian military, poses for a portrait in an undisclosed location in Nigeria, September 28, 2020. Military leaders denied the abortion program ever existed. To match Special Report NIGERIA-MILITARY/ABORTIONS REUTERS/Paul Carsten

Dec 12 (Reuters) - A Reuters investigation published last week revealed that the Nigerian army has run a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the country's northeast since at least 2013.

The programme has involved terminating at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls, many of whom had been kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants, according to dozens of witness accounts and documentation reviewed by Reuters.

Here are some reactions to the report:

LAI MOHAMMED, NIGERIAN INFORMATION MINISTER

"The Federal Government hereby categorically states that there is no 'secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme' being run by our military in the northeast or anywhere across the country."

U.N. SPOKESMAN STEPHANE DUJARRIC

"The Secretary-General takes note with concern of the allegations of systemic and coerced abortions reportedly perpetrated by the Nigerian army against women and girls who had already been victimised by Boko Haram.

"We call on the Nigerian authorities to fully investigate these allegations and make sure there's accountability."

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON

"Our embassy in Abuja is seeking further information, including from the government of Nigeria and stakeholders working in this space.

"We have encouraged the government of Nigeria to take the allegations seriously and to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation, and we will continue to do so."

ALICIA KEARNS, CHAIR OF UK PARLIAMENT FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

"The stories in this report are heartbreaking and - if verified - represent a large-scale, and deeply concerning, abuse of human rights.

"It is the responsibility of UK authorities to ensure that their support of the Nigerian military does not aid human rights abuses and we expect the government to take these allegations seriously.

"The Committee will do its part and will continue to follow this story closely as part of ongoing scrutiny of the UK's relationship with Nigeria."

JIM RISCH, LEADING REPUBLICAN ON U.S. SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE

"This is a deeply disturbing report. Nigeria’s government, and our government, must investigate these troubling allegations. Swift action must be taken against those found to have carried out this policy of murder and violation of rights.”

CHRIS SMITH, REPUBLICAN MEMBER OF U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

“The credible reports by Reuters implicating Nigerian officials in systematic forced abortions performed on women and girls who were kidnapped and raped by Islamic militants shock the conscience.

“The United States must stand with these victims and ensure that those involved in planning and carrying out this heinous abuse are held to account.

"Provisions I authored that were enacted into law (PL 106-113) give the Secretary of State the authority to sanction any foreign national directly involved in forced abortion.

"Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken must immediately investigate this egregious violation of human rights and take action against any Nigerian official involved or complicit in this atrocity pursuant to my legislation."

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL NIGERIA ON TWITTER

"Such forced abortions constitute gender-based violence that may amount to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

"Nigeria as a State party to the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is responsible for acts of its agents, including those by the Nigerian army that constitute gender-based violence against women.

"Amnesty International is hereby calling on the Nigerian authorities to:

1. Promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate this report of forced abortions committed by the Nigerian army.

2. Prosecute and ensure appropriate legal and disciplinary sanctions on all those found culpable.

3. Provide effective reparations to all victims of forced abortion committed by the Nigerian army."

Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Editing by Howard Goller/Mark Heinrich

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