International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced its readiness to investigate members of Nigerian Security Forces and Boko Haram insurgents for war crimes, rape, murder and several other criminal offence.
ICC said it has found a reasonable basis to believe that member of the security forces and the insurgents committed the charges preferred against them.
Fatou Bensouda, the ICC Prosecutor disclosed this in a statement on Friday, December 11, 2020.
In the statement, Besouda alleged that the insurgents and members of Nigerian Security Forces engaged in conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 years into the armed forces and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and political grounds.
Following a thorough process, I can announce today that the statutory criteria for opening an investigation into the situation in Nigeria have been met.
The prosecutor explained that there was a reasonable basis to believe that Boko Haram insurgents committed war crimes and crimes against humanity such as murder; rape, sexual slavery, including forced pregnancy and forced marriage; and enslavement.
Other crimes committed by the group included torture, taking of hostages, intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population, intentionally directing attacks against aid workers and their facilities, conscripting child militants and so on.
The ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor concluded that the security forces were guilty of unlawful imprisonment, conscripting and enlisting underage children into the armed forces, and persecuting on gender and political grounds.
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.
ICC had opened a case file on Nigeria and started preliminary examinations as far back 2010. Bensouda said the reason it took 10 years to conclude its findings was to give the Nigerian authorities enough time to investigate and prosecute offenders locally.
The ICC prosecutor stressed;
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.
Read Also: ‘Nigerian Authorities Trying To Cover Up Lekki Shooting’ – Amnesty International
She explained that the next step was to ask the ICC’s pre-trial judges to open investigations, stating that her office counted on the full support of the Nigerian authorities and the Assembly of States Parties during the next stage.
Amnesty International, reacting to the ICC Prosecutor’s announcement, described it as a milestone decision and “first meaningful step towards justice that we have seen for victims of atrocious crimes” in Northeast Nigeria.
On his part, Netsanet Belay, Amnesty’s Director of Research and Advocacy, however, cautioned that the announcement must be followed with immediate action to open a full-blown investigation.
Read Also: Bandits Killed 1,126 Nigerian Villagers In Six Months – Amnesty International
Victims have already waited a decade for justice. The Office of the Prosecutor must now move swiftly to seek the judicial authority needed to initiate the full investigation; further delays will only serve to frustrate victims and run the risk of evidence and witness testimony being lost forever.
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