THE Amnesty International says there are critical evidences for the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a formal investigation against Nigeria over serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law committed by both the terrorists group, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces since 2009.
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) publicly opened a preliminary examination on Nigeria on November 18, 2010, a year after insurgency erupted in the Northeast in order to establish whether a ‘reasonable basis’ exists to proceed with a full investigation into the situation in Nigeria pursuant to the criteria in the Rome Statute.
According to the Rome Statute, the ICC may open an investigation only if a state party is unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators responsible for these crimes.
As a result of the preliminary investigation, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) identified eight potential cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by both sides of the conflict.
“Eight years since the opening of the preliminary examination and faced with the continuing commission of crimes under international law and the possibility of a never-ending preliminary analysis, it is time for the OTP to open a formal investigation in Nigeria,” Amnesty International said on Monday, in a report titled “WILLINGLY UNABLE: ICC Preliminary Examination and Nigeria’s Failure to Address Impunity for International Crimes.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (often referred to as the International Criminal Court Statute or the Rome Statute) is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998 and it entered into force on 1 July 2002. As of October 2017, 123 states including Nigeria are party to the statute.
The report critically assesses the ICC-OTP’s preliminary examination in Nigeria, and the ability and willingness of the government of Nigeria to ensure accountability for crimes committed by Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces.
It indicted the Federal Government of severe lack of co-operation which it said continues to critically affect the OTP’s ability to make a full and informed assessment of the Nigeria situation sonce 2010.
Amnesty International said it believes that the lack of relevant domestic proceedings and lack of co-operation is largely a reflection of the Nigerian government’s lack of willingness and its inability genuinely to bring perpetrators to justice.
In releasing the report which contains damning cases of war crimes and violations of human rights against both sides, Amnesty International pointed out that Boko Haram has killed thousands of civilians, abducted thousands of women, girls and boys, many of whom have been forcibly recruited as child soldiers or subjected to forced marriages and sexual slavery.
On the other hand, it also said that Nigerian security forces have committed extrajudicial killings, mass arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and other ill-treatment, leading to thousands of deaths in custody, enforced disappearances, and other crimes including rape and sexual violence.
Between 2009 and 2015, Amnesty International said the terrorist group has “reportedly abducted at least 4,000 girls, women and boys,” with a majority of unmarried women and girls, and trapped tens of thousands more when it took control of towns in the Northeast.
As of June 2015, Amnesty International said it had documented that the Nigerian military had extra-judicially executed more than 1,200 people in the course of the conflict and arbitrarily arrested at least 20,000, of whom at least 7,000 have died as a result of the inhumane conditions in custody.
On Nigerian government’s failure to address impunity for international crimes, it argued that the Nigerian authorities claim that two recent inquiries, the Special Board of Inquiry (SBI) – established by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in March 2017 and the Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement (PIP) appointed by the Presidency in August 2017, represent genuine measures to investigate credible allegations made against military and CJTF members were never designed and mandated to identify perpetrators and recommend any criminal investigations or prosecutions.
Rather, Amnesty International said various commissions and panels of inquiry initiated and administered by the Nigerian government, including especially the SBI and PIP, have not been followed up by any further investigations, prosecutions or accountability measures in relation to senior and ‘most responsible’ military officials and/or into crimes under international law outlined in the OTP’s potential cases.
It added that the ‘inquiries’ were not conducted in a manner consistent with an intent to bring the persons concerned to justice but instead undertaken for the purpose of shielding the persons concerned from criminal responsibility.
The reports of SBI and PIP, Amnesty International maintained have not been made public by the government which further reinforces the unwillingness of the government to conduct a thorough and open investigation and prosecution into all the allegations and those involved.
The panels exonerated the military of any wrongdoings in its conduct in the Northeast— dismissed all allegations of possible individual criminal responsibility, including command responsibility, of (now retired) senior military officials, rejecting all documentary and other evidence presented to it.
“The much talked about PIP also concluded its 27 days of “public hearings” across the six geographic zones of the country and presented its report to the Presidency in February 2018. Similarly, the report has not been made public and hence its findings and recommendations remain unknown.
“Analysis of available evidence indicates that the SBI and the PIP proceedings were marked throughout by manifestly insufficient steps in their investigation, including patterns of ignoring evidence, lack of resources allocated to the proceedings, inability or unwillingness to conduct forensic examinations and other necessary steps,” it said.
Reacting to the trial of Boko Haram suspects, the human right organization said it believes that the three “mass Boko Haram trial” sessions which took place in Kainji, Niger State in 2017/18 constitute ‘sham’ proceedings undertaken on the basis of manifestly insufficient evidence and flawed investigations with the intention of hiding the government’s failure to hold Boko Haram perpetrators to account – “these trials too are not consistent with an intent to bring Boko Haram members to justice.”
It further indicted the Nigerian government on the mass trials which it said were marked by ‘egregious violations´ of defendants’ fundamental human rights, including rights to a fair trial and due process.
“These violations of fundamental human rights are ´so egregious´ that the ´mass trial´ proceedings should not constitute genuine proceedings for the purposes of the OTP’s admissibility assessment.”
Amnesty International concluded that the Nigerian government has not conducted any relevant national proceedings for the purposes of Article 17 of the Rome Statute into the ‘eight potential cases’ outlined by the OTP, and that Nigeria should be considered as ‘inactive’ as a result of this absence of relevant domestic proceedings.