The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said she will seek full investigations into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Nigeria.
The announcement was made Friday by ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
Fatou Bensouda said in a statement on Friday her office had completed a preliminary examination and found a “reasonable basis to believe” that Boko Haram and its splinter groups had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Nigeria, through murder, rape, sexual slavery and torture. Judges must approve the request.
Bensouda’s office has been reviewing the conflict between government forces and Boko Haram and its various splinter groups in western and northern Nigeria since 2010.
She said the office recognised that the vast majority of the crimes were attributable to non-state actors, but that it had also found a “reasonable basis” to believe that members of the Nigerian security forces had also committed crimes.
This included murder, rape, torture and cruel treatment, as well as enforced disappearance and forcible transfer of the population and attacks directed at civilians.
Boko Haram began its violent campaign in northeastern Nigeria in 2009 with the goal of imposing its version of strict Islamic law. Thousands have since been killed and many more displaced.
Bensouda’s office has been reviewing the conflict between government forces and Boko Haram and its various splinter groups since 2010.
Its main group claimed responsibility earlier this month for the massacre of farmworkers in an area outside Borno state’s capital Maiduguri, in which dozens of labourers were mowed down by gunmen on motorbikes.
She added that the 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”.
“My Office will continue to take the necessary measures to ensure the integrity of future investigations in relation to the situation in Nigeria,” she said.
“The predicament we are confronted with due to capacity constraints underscores the clear mismatch between the resources afforded to my Office and the ever growing demands placed upon it. It is a situation that requires not only prioritization on behalf of the Office, to which we remain firmly committed, but also open and frank discussions with the Assembly of States Parties, and other stakeholders of the Rome Statute system, on the real resource needs of my Office in order to effectively execute its statutory mandate.
“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 prosecutor said the investigation also showed the involvement of non-state actors such as the Boko Haram sect in crimes against humanity.