ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda
By Tobi Soniyi
The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has accused Boko Haram of engaging in crimes against humanity.
The ICC, in its report of preliminary examination activities dated November 2012, a copy of which THISDAY obtained at the weekend, said its investigations had shown that the Islamic sect was involved in murder and persecution.
The report also said the alleged crimes committed by Niger Delta militants and the activities of security agencies during the militancy era in the oil-rich region did not amount to war crimes.
“The office has determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Nigeria, namely acts of murder and persecution attributed to Boko Haram.
“Therefore, the prosecutor has decided that the preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria should advance to phase 3 (admissibility) with a view to assessing whether the national authorities are conducting genuine proceedings in relation to those who appear to bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes, and the gravity of such crimes,” the report said.
According to it, from November 10, 2005 to September 2012, OTP received 59 articles and 15 communications in relation to killings and violence in Nigeria.
Of this number, 26 were found to be manifestly outside the jurisdiction of the court, five were found to warrant analysis, while 28 were included in the preliminary examination carried out by the OTP.
While the report said Boko Haram had committed crimes against humanity, it however said that allegations that security agencies like the Joint Task Force (JTF) committed crimes against humanity were unsubstantiated.
The report further noted that even though there were allegations of serious human rights violations against the security agencies, information available at the stage of the investigation did not permit a conclusion that such violations were committed in furtherance of state’s policy.
The report states: “The office considers that there is a reasonable basis that since July 2009, Boko Haram has committed the following acts constituting crimes against humanity: Murder under article 7(1)(a) and (ii) persecution under article 7(1)(h) of the Statute. In particular, the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that since July 2009, Boko Haram has launched a widespread and systematic attack that has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 Christians and Muslims civilians in different locations throughout Nigeria, including Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna and Plateau States as well as Abuja.
“The consistent pattern of such incidents indicates that the group possesses the means to carry out widespread and/or systematic attacks, and displays internal coordination and organisational control required to that end.
“The attacks have been committed pursuant to the policy defined at the leadership level of Boko Haram, which aims at imposing an exclusive Islamic system of government on northern Nigeria at the expense of Christians specifically.
“Opponents to this goal have been targeted as well. Boko Haram leaders or spokesmen have issued public statements evincing the intention to attack civilians in furtherance of this policy, including a January 2012 ultimatum urging Christians to leave Northern Nigeria.
“The targeting of an identifiable group or collectively on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender or other grounds is a constitutive element of the crime of persecution under article 7(1).”
On the allegation that security agencies committed grave human rights violations, the report found as follow: “Although allegations against Nigerian security forces in the context of their operations against Boko Haram may reflect serious human rights violations, the information available at this stage does not permit a finding of a reasonable basis to believe that such acts were committed pursuant to or in furtherance of a state or organisational policy to attack the civilian population.
“There is also currently no reasonable basis to believe that the confrontations between the security forces and Boko Haram amount to an armed conflict. Again, these initial assessments may be revisited in the light of new facts or evidence.”
The report, which also examined the situation in the Niger Delta, indicated that no crimes against humanity were committed there.
“Based on the available information, there does not now appear to be a reasonable basis to believe that the alleged crimes committed in the Delta region could constitute war crimes. In particular, the violence in the Niger Delta, including the armed confrontation between MEND militants and the Nigerian Joint Task Force in 2009, does not appear to involve protracted armed violence between governmental authorities and organised armed groups or between such groups, as stipulated in article 8(20(f).
“This initial assessment may be revisited in light of new facts or evidence,” it stated.
Under the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, the Office of the Prosecutor is responsible for determining whether a situation meets the legal criteria established by the statute to warrant investigation by the court.
To do this, the office will conduct a preliminary examination of all situations that come to its attention based on the statutory criteria and the information available.