ICC calls for collaboration with FG on investigation, trial of war crimes in Nigeria
A2justice backs plan to probe Boko Haram, NSF activities
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has called for collaborative efforts with the Federal Government of Nigeria towards investigating and possible trial of war crimes against Boko Haram insurgents and the Nigeria Security Forces (NSF).
In a statement, Bensouda disclosed that ICC has concluded plans to conduct independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of Boko Haram insurgents and NSF for alleged crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
He noted that statutory criteria for opening an investigation into the situation in Nigeria have been met, adding that “several preliminary examinations would progress to the investigative stage.”
MEANWHILE, Human rights group, Access to Justice (A2justice) has lauded the ICC’s readiness to investigate crimes against humanity, especially by NSF.
Convener of the group, Mr. Joseph Otteh said: “The investigation is long overdue, and, in fact, many Nigerians may even have even given up on it, given the time it has taken to reach this determination.
“It is also possible that the time lapse may have given Nigeria’s security agencies reasons for optimism that their atrocities will stay under the rug, and could also have emboldened them to practice more atrocities.”
He applauded the ICC for raising hopes that there will be at last, a day of reckoning, a time for accountability and justice for the thousands of innocent bloods that have been spilled without cause and for the many other horrendous atrocities that have been perpetrated by both Boko Haram and our security forces.
“Both Boko Haram and Nigeria’s military forces have, until now, largely lived above the law, killing and maiming and walking away free, and in the case of the military, finding support in governments that have been as ready to indulge its atrocities as the military has been willing to commit them.
“We have seen this in Kaduna, in the Federal Capital Territory, in Aba and lately in Lagos State. Atrocities committed by both Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces are overwhelming in their number and terrifying in their brutality; sometimes, the scale of horror employed by both sides were, by and large, at par, making it impossible to distinguish a form of abuse committed by one party from that committed by the other.”
According to Otteh, no barrel was too deep to be plumbed, and no lines too sacred to be crossed by both sides. Unfortunately, these atrocities, he noted, have been committed under the watch of constitutional governments that have been too eager to offer the military a free pass in whatsoever it (the military) determined was necessary for its counter-terrorism operations.
ICC’s statement reads: “ICC had since 2003, conducting investigations in multiple situations within its jurisdiction. As we move towards the next steps concerning the situation in Nigeria, I count on the full support of the Nigerian authorities, as well as of the Assembly of state parties more generally, on whose support the court ultimately depends. And as we look ahead to future investigations in the independent and impartial exercise of our mandate.”
Bensouda said ICC has specifically, concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of Boko Haram and its splinter groups have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, which include murder; rape, sexual slavery, including forced pregnancy and forced marriage; enslavement; torture and cruelty.
It also accused the insurgents of committing war crimes like outrages upon personal dignity; taking of hostages; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance; intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to education and to places of worship and similar institutions; conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed groups and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and religious grounds; and other inhumane acts.
The ICC noted that the NSF would also be investigated for similar war crimes, saying, “we have also found a reasonable basis to believe that members of the NSF have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes: murder, rape, torture, and cruel treatment; enforced disappearance; forcible transfer of population; outrages upon personal dignity; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such and against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; unlawful imprisonment; persecution on gender and political grounds and other inhumane acts.”
It said the allegations are sufficiently grave to warrant investigation both in quantitative and qualitative terms. He disclosed that his office would provide further details in its forthcoming annual Report on preliminary examination activities.