GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Members of the Islamic sect Boko Haram could be responsible for crimes against humanity in Nigeria, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said.
Terrorist attacks attributed to Boko Haram have escalated in Nigeria since the group took responsibility for an attack last year on U.N. offices in Abuja. The group has issued threats to the Christian population in Nigeria since a deadly attack on the religious community Christmas Day.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in a statement Thursday, said Boko Haram and other groups like it 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 added.
Pillay said she recognized some religious and political leaders in Nigeria have issued calls to end the violence but emphasized the need for a united voice to prevent the security situation "from spiraling out of control."
"I appreciate what an extremely difficult task the government is facing," she said. "However, the police and other security forces should act with a sense of responsibility and respect for the rule of law in order to avoid making a bad situation even worse."
The Boko Haram threat is compounded by nationwide strikes in protest of the end of a fuel subsidy in place for nearly 40 years.