ICC and alleged war crimes against Nigeria

Governed by its founding treaty called the ‘Rome Statute’, the International Criminal Court (ICC), has become the court of last resort that has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In this report, KEHINDE OSASONA looks at the implication of escalated cases preferred against Nigeria by the international body.
Nigeria signed the Rome Statute on June 1,2000, and ratified it on Sept. 27, 2001, thereby becoming the 39th State Party of the International Criminal Court, (ICC).
Afterward, the Federal Ministry of Justice sent an Executive Bill, entitled “The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Ratification and Jurisdiction) Bill 2001” to the National Assembly for adoption (pursuant to Section 12 of the 1999 Federal Constitution). The Rome Statute (Ratification and Jurisdiction) Bill, 2006 was passed by both Chambers of the National Assembly, but was not harmonised for assent by the President before the end of the last civilian administration in May 2007.
ICC President’s visit Just recently too, President of the International Criminal Court, Justice Chile Ebue-Osuji, concluded an official visit to Nigeria, where he met with the nation’s top hierarchy to discuss ways of strengthening the international criminal justice system aimed at suppressing impunity for the gravest crimes. While the visit lasted, Osuji emphasised that the Court is keen to work together with states in Africa to bolster the fi ght against impunity for the gravest international crimes, and hoped to count on Nigeria’s support in taking that process forward.
Escalated cases At its 2015 report, the ICC listed Nigeria among countries that committed crimes against humanity.
They, particularly, indicted the Nigerian military and the extremist sect, Boko Haram. It was indicated in that report that the deadly sect, had, in the last six years, triggered brutal insurgency and terrorised Nigeria’s citizens in the North East region. In a preliminary examination report on Nigeria, Prosecutor at ICC office in The Hague, identified eight possible cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes under Article 7 and 8 of its statute, perpetrated by both the sects and the Nigerian military. According to the report, six of the possible cases were perpetrated by Boko Haram while two were by the Nigerian military. It further stated that Boko Haram’s policy of indiscriminate attacks on civilians considered to be ‘disbelievers’ constituted the first instance of crime against humanity.
“This case includes attacks conducted against civilians when taking control of towns and villages as well as bomb attacks launched against civilians,” the report said. “From January 2013 to March 2015, 356 reported incidents of killings attributed to Boko Haram took place in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Plateau, Kano, the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), Gombe, Kaduna, Bauchi in Nigeria as well as occasionally in Cameroon (since February 2013) and Niger (Dumba and Diff a, since January 2015) which led to the killing of over 8,000 civilians. The report further indicated that in 2014 alone 1,123 people were abducted, 536 of them being female victims. “Boko Haram reportedly also detained thousands of civilians in its camps and in towns under its control in Borno state and other undetermined areas in the north-east of Nigeria, including in the Sambisa forest, around Lake Chad, and near the Gorsi mountains in Cameroon. For example, in Bama town, hundreds of men were reportedly held by Boko Haram in the town’s prison for several weeks before being executed,” the report added.
The third instance of crime against humanity identified in the report was Boko Haram’s propensity of attacking schools and other educational buildings, as well as attacks on students and teachers. “Between January 2012 and October 2013, 70 teachers and more than 100 schoolchildren and students were reportedly killed or wounded. In May 2014, Nigeria Union of Teachers reported that at least 173 teachers had been killed between 2009 and 2014. Borno State officials have cited a slightly higher figure of 176 teachers. At least 50 schools were either burned down or badly damaged and 60 more were forced to close.
In March 2014, the Borno State government decided to close all secondary schools in the state in order to protect students and teachers from further attacks. “Boko Haram’s policy of recruiting childsoldiers constituted another instance of the sect’s alleged commission of war crime and crime against humanity. “While there is no information available on the total number of child soldiers, the UN reported the recruitment and use of children as young as 12-year- old by Boko Haram. Several witnesses reported that they saw children in the ranks of Boko Haram during attacks. Boko Haram reportedly pressured boys to join their group by threatening their families through cash payments. Others may be recruited through Quranic schools.
“Most of the children are allegedly used for intelligence gathering, tracking the movements of enemy forces, transportation of weapons and for participating in the attacks, including for the torching of buildings dedicated to education and religion.
In propaganda videos attributed to Boko Haram, child soldiers can be seen being trained to use fi rearms.” The sect’s attacks on girls and women formed the basis of Boko Haram fifth potential case of crime against humanity, the report further stated. According to the ICC, the increasing attacks on female subjects were for punitive reasons such as attendance of school and for reasons such as cooking, cleaning and other operational reasons. The report observed that the abduction of 276 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State on 14 April 2014 was the most notorious example of this crime.
It further observed that the increasing use of women and girls as suicide bombers represents an escalation of this crime, stressing that Boko Haram’s attacks on places of worship constituted the sect’s sixth commission of war crime. On crimes allegedly committed Nigerian security forces, the ICC said the first instance is the indiscriminate arrest, detention, torture and extrajudicial killings of people suspected to be Boko Haram fighters and collaborators.
“During such arrest operations, boys and men were reportedly arbitrarily targeted and arrested by Nigerian Security Forces. Since 2011, Nigerian Security Forces have reportedly arrested at least 20,000 people, mostly young men in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States. Altogether, more than 7,000 people reportedly died in military detention since March 2011 due to illness, poor condition and overcrowding of detention facilities, torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions.”
The second instance of crimes committed by the military is its attack of civilian population as well as the recruitment of child soldiers by pro-government militia called the Civilian JTF. “Attacks against civilians form the subject of a second potential case against the Nigerian Security Forces. In the town of Baga, Borno State, up to 228 persons may have been killed following a security operation on 17 April 2013. 55 Human Rights Watch published geospatial images of the area aff ected, alleging that at least 2,275 dwellings were destroyed in the attack.
“Finally, although the central government prohibits the recruitment and use of child soldiers, it is reported that the Civilian Joint Task Force recruited and used children, sometimes by force,” the report added that further information on the allegations is still being required.”
Malami’s defense Expressing concern over the development, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubabakar Malami (SAN), described as worrisome and uncalled for the eight potential cases Nigeria had with the ICC.
According to him, there were 6 against the Boko Haram and 2 against the Military which transmuted from being an initial preliminary examination to preliminary investigation. Malami was quoted as having said, “investigation of eight potential cases against Nigeria is worrisome and uncalled for, considering the fact that our country has cooperated and is willing to arrest, investigate and prosecute anyone that commits any offence that falls within the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
Explaining further, he said: “Nigeria has expressed on several occasions her unflinching support and cooperation with the ICC in terms of the various meetings that have taken place here in Nigeria and in terms of compendium of documents, including charge sheets, records of investigative and proceedings, certified true copies of judgements and reports of investigation panels.” “Nigeria being “a country that believes in the operation of the rule of law, fundamental freedom and the need to fight impunity in all ramifications” the escalation of the eight potential cases “would not deter us from further expressing and demonstrating support to the ICC.”
Malami assured. At this juncture, it behoves therefore, government and stakeholders in the judicial firmament to, as a matter of necessity, complement the ICC in its onerous task of ridding the world of international crimes against humanity.

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