Nigeria: ICC investigation in Nigeria now inevitable, further delay a waste of time

Reacting to the publication of the annual report of the Prosecutor of the ICC on preliminary examinations,  which sets out the work of the ICC over the last year looking at countries around the world where crimes may have been committed to decide whether to open investigations, Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director said:

“An ICC investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict in north east Nigeria is now inevitable. The Prosecutor has confirmed yet again that the Nigerian government is not taking steps to deliver justice.

Victims have been waiting for justice for over 10 years.

Netsanet Belay

“The Prosecutor has also confirmed that she will make a final decision in 2020 on whether to proceed to investigate specific crimes. Should Nigerian authorities fail to demonstrate tangible steps to fulfil their obligations, she will be bound to proceed towards a full investigation.

“Victims have been waiting for justice for over 10 years. Nigeria has already demonstrated that it is not willing to investigate and prosecute those responsible for heinous crimes committed by all parties to the conflict in the north east.

“The ICC should have already launched an investigation but there can be no doubt that the time will come in 2020 for the ICC to step up to its role as the court of last resort.

“States parties to the Rome Statue must step up to provide the necessary resources to the Court and reiterate cooperation with the Office of the Prosecutor to enable such an investigation into the situation in Nigeria.”


Since the beginning of the conflict in July 2009, the armed group popularly known as ‘Boko Haram’ and the Nigerian security forces have committed war crimes and other serious violations and abuses of human rights law.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Nigeria in 2010. Today, it released its 2019 report on preliminary examinations. 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. However, it is clear that the Prosecutor is losing patience with the failure by Nigeria to investigate and prosecute those responsible for Rome Statute crimes.

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 Nigerian authorities have deliberately failed to investigate or prosecute crimes committed by both sides of the conflict. Based on this research and analysis, Amnesty International has been calling the OTP to request the opening of an ICC investigation in Nigeria.

A year after this report, Amnesty reiterates its call in a set of updated recommendations to the OTP and Nigerian authorities published this week.