By Simdi Gloria:-
On Friday, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor said she had enough evidence to open a full probe into ongoing violence in Nigeria by both Islamist insurgents and security forces.
Amnesty International described it as “an important milestone”.
This announcement comes as violence continues to wreak havoc in northeastern Nigeria, where at least 76 people were slaughtered by Boko Haram jihadists two weeks ago.
“Following a thorough process, I can announce today that the statutory criteria for opening an investigation into the situation in Nigeria have been met,” Bensouda said in a statement, issued at the ICC’s headquarters in The Hague.
A preliminary investigation into Nigeria’s situation was opened by ICC prosecutors in 2010 but Bensouda now wants permission from judges to proceed to a full-blown formal probe.
Boko Haram and its splinter groups have committed “acts that constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes” including murder, rape, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, and cruel treatment, Bensouda said.
But while the “vast majority” of crimes were committed by non-state perpetrators “we also found a reasonable basis to believe that members of the Nigerian Security Forces committed acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes”, Bensouda said.
This included murder, rape, torture, and cruel treatment as well as enforced disappearance and forcible transfer of the population and attacks directed at civilians.
Bensouda said Nigeria has made some effort to prosecute “mainly low-level captured” Boko Haram fighters, while military authorities told her they have “examined, and dismissed, allegations against their own troops”.
“I have given ample time for these proceedings to progress,” keeping in mind the ICC’s complementarity principle, which means it would only get involved in investigations and prosecutions if a member state was unable or unwilling to do so, she added.
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,” Bensouda said.
Global rights monitor Amnesty praised the inquiry.
“After years of calling on the ICC Prosecutor to open a full investigation, this is the first meaningful step towards justice that we have seen for victims of atrocious crimes committed by all parties to the conflict in northeast Nigeria,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Director of Research and Advocacy.
“This is an important milestone, but it must be followed with immediate action to open a full investigation. For the victims of war crimes and potential crimes against humanity to see justice, it’s crucial that the Prosecutor swiftly begin an effective and well-resourced investigation.”
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