Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), says her office has enough evidence to open a probe into human right abuses perpetrated by members of the Nigeria Security Forces (NSF), in Nigeria.
This was contained in a statement issued by the ICC prosecutor on Friday.
According to the statement, the ICC said its preliminary investigation into the situation in Nigeria has revealed that members of security forces in Nigeria are culpable of committing what she described crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“We have also found a reasonable basis to believe that members of the Nigerian Security Forces (“NSF”) have committed the following acts constituting 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; conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into security forces and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and political grounds; and other inhumane acts,” part of the statement said.
While stating that the allegations were sufficiently enough to begin an investigation into the abuses, Fatou noted that the preliminary investigation which had started since 2010 took too much time to complete because her office has been supporting the Nigerian authority in dealing with these abuses domestically.
“These allegations are also sufficiently grave to warrant investigation by my Office, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. My Office will provide further details in our forthcoming annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities.
“The preliminary examination has been lengthy not because of the findings on crimes – indeed, as early as 2013, the Office announced its findings on crimes in Nigeria, which have been updated regularly since. The duration of the preliminary examination, open since 2010, was due to the priority given by my Office in supporting the Nigerian authorities in investigating and prosecuting these crimes domestically.
“It has always been my conviction that the goals of the Rome Statute are best served by States executing their own primary responsibility to ensure accountability at the national level. I have repeatedly stressed my aspiration for the ability of the Nigerian judicial system to address these alleged crimes. We have engaged in multiple missions to Nigeria to support national efforts, shared our own assessments, and invited the authorities to act. We have seen some efforts made by the prosecuting authorities in Nigeria to hold members of Boko Haram to account in recent years, primarily against low-level captured fighters for membership in a terrorist organisation. The military authorities have also informed me that they have examined, and dismissed, allegations against their own troops.
“I have given ample time for these proceedings to progress, bearing in mind the overarching requirements of partnership and vigilance that must guide our approach to complementarity. However, our assessment is that none of these proceedings relate, even indirectly, to the forms of conduct or categories of persons that would likely form the focus of my investigations. And while this does not foreclose the possibility for the authorities to conduct relevant and genuine proceedings, it does mean that, as things stand, the requirements under the Statute are met for my Office to proceed,” she said.
She noted that the next step will be to request authorization from the judges of the pre-trial chamber of the court to open investigations into the abuses. She also called for the full support of the Nigerian authorities as the next step into the investigation begins.
“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 States 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, I also look forward to a constructive and collaborative exchange with the Government of Nigeria to determine how justice may best be served under the shared framework of complementary domestic and international action.”
The ICC’s announcement comes days the Amnesty International indicted both Boko-Haram and the Nigerian military in a report of committing egregious human rights abuses especially against older people in the Northeast.