On May 23, the U.N. imposed sanctions against Boko Haram. The United Nations Security Council added the Boko Haram of Northern Nigeria to the “List of Designated Entities” to be sanctioned in connection with al-Qaeda. Members of the group could be denied travel outside the country and see their assets frozen.

The 1999 Resolution 1267 originally focused on pressuring the Afghan government to abandon terrorist groups within its borders, and applied to the country as a whole. The problem, as detailed in a 2000 U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report, rested in the negative economic repercussions for locals. After the 9/11 attacks, the Council redirected sanctions against individuals and entities that supported or worked in coordination with al-Qaeda.

Yet, in targeting specific persons and groups, critics argue that the Council works against the human rights agenda. Although a process now exists through which one may appeal the listing, those accused of aiding terrorism stand no trial before receiving sanctions.

The name recognition that accompanies such sanctions may also serve as a useful recruitment tactic now that the Boko Haram is one of the most infamous organizations in the world. Critics have further argued that unlike the al-Qaeda group, Boko Haram’s funding does not often come from wealthy friends and family, but rather small-scale crime, and therefore sanctions would hardly address informal finances.

The announcement of sanctions comes as violence is ever increasing in the region. Only one week ago, twin bombings in the city of Jos, for which Boko Haram has yet to claim responsibility, killed 122 people. On May 5, the group killed over 300 people in Gamboru Ngala.

Boko Haram has also made headlines for the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls. Authorities have located the hostages, but security reasons have prevented a rescue mission. Many believe the sanctions represent a symbolic response to the international outcry on the kidnapping.

– Erica Lignell

Sources: BBC, Financial Times, GPF, United Nations