Nigeria: It is past time that the ICC opens an investigation

Responding to the statement by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor released today about the conclusion of its visit in Abuja, Nigeria, Amnesty International’s Advocacy and Research Director Netsanet Belay said:

“It appears that the government of Nigeria has dumped further ‘information’ on the Office of the Prosecutor in an attempt to delay the inevitable investigation.

"There is mounting evidence that the government of Nigeria is willingly unable to bring perpetrators to justice and it is past time that the OTP proceeds with an investigation into crimes committed by both Boko Haram and the Nigerian military.

There is mounting evidence that the government of Nigeria is willingly unable to bring perpetrators to justice and it is past time that the OTP proceeds with an investigation into crimes committed by both Boko Haram and the Nigerian military.
Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Advocacy and Research Director

“The delay has gone on for far too long and the OTP needs to do what is right for victims of these horrific crimes who have been waiting for justice for more than a decade. The ICC should proceed to open an investigation into atrocities committed in the North-East of Nigeria.”

Background

Since the beginning of the conflict, the group popularly known as ‘Boko Haram’ and the Nigerian security forces have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. 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, 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.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Nigeria since 2010. Today, it released a statement following the conclusion of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s fourth mission to Nigeria, ‘welcoming the submission of additional information on national proceedings from the Nigerian government to facilitate her Office’s ongoing analysis and assessment of the applicable Rome Statute criteria’. It appears that the Office still has not determined whether or not to open an investigation into the situation, close to ten years after the opening of the preliminary examination.

In December 2018, Amnesty International published its report ‘Willingly Unable: ICC Preliminary Examination And Nigeria’s Failure To Address Impunity For International Crimes’ which critically assessed 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. Our analysis showed that at the domestic level, inquiries into allegations concerning crimes committed by the Nigerian military were never intended, designed or conducted with a view to result in criminal prosecutions.

It also demonstrates that there have been minimal investigations or prosecutions of crimes by Boko Haram, and that the ‘mass trials of Boko Haram suspects’ conducted in Niger state constitute sham proceedings undertaken to hide the Nigerian authorities’ failure to bring Boko Haram leaders to account. Based on this research and analysis, Amnesty International has been calling the OTP to request the opening of an ICC investigation in Nigeria. Nearly a year since this report, there has been no progress towards any prosecution at the domestic level.