The International Criminal Court (ICC) has concluded plans to investigate the military and the Boko Haram insurgents for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, who disclosed this in a statement on Friday, said the Hague-based court has found a reasonable basis to believe that the Nigerian military and Boko Haram fighters have committed murder, rape, torture, and cruel treatment, including enforced disappearance and hostage-taking in the West African nation.
According to her, preliminary investigations by ICC also revealed that the military carried out the forcible transfer of population and intentionally directed attacks against the civilian population and individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities.
The ICC prosecutor also alleged that the military engaged in unlawful imprisonment; 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; and other inhumane acts.
She stressed that the statutory criteria for opening an investigation into the security situation had been met, paving the way for a full-blown probe of the allegations against the members of the Nigerian military engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the North-East.
Bensouda said: “While my Office recognises that the vast majority of criminality within the situation is attributable to non-state actors, we have also found a reasonable basis to believe that members of the Nigerian Security Forces have committed the following acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes: murder, rape, torture, and cruel treatment; enforced disappearance; forcible transfer of population; outrages upon personal dignity; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such and against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities.
“Others include unlawful imprisonment; conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and political grounds; and other inhumane acts.”
The prosecutor also revealed that her office had concluded that there was a reasonable basis to believe that members of Boko Haram and its splinter groups similarly committed various war crimes including sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and forced marriage; enslavement; torture; cruel treatment; outrages upon personal dignity; taking of hostages; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population or individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities.
She accused the terror group of intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in humanitarian assistance; intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to education and places of worship and similar institutions; conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed groups and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and religious grounds; and other inhumane acts.
Bensouda insisted that the allegations against Boko Haram are sufficiently grave to warrant an investigation by her Office.
“Moving forward, the next step will be to request authorisation from the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open investigations,” the ICC prosecutor concluded.
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