ICC chief prosecutor to open Nigeria war crimes investigation

The prosecutor will recommend an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Boko Haram and Nigerian forces

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the damage at a camp for displaced people after an attack by suspected members of the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency in Dalori, Nigeria November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kolawole Adewale/File Photo
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The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says a decade-long probe has found enough evidence to merit opening a full-scale investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Boko Haram as well as by Nigerian government forces.

Winding up the preliminary probe into the uprising in north-eastern Nigeria, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on Friday that there is a "reasonable basis to believe" Boko Haram and its splinter groups committed crimes including murder, rape, sexual slavery, torture and the use of child soldiers as well as orchestrating attacks on schools and places of worship.

She added that while the "vast majority of criminality" in the conflict was committed by Boko Haram, prosecutors also found evidence that members of the Nigerian Security Forces committed crimes including murder, rape, torture and using child soldiers.

Bensouda said the next step would be to request authorisation from judges to open a formal investigation.

Boko Haram and the breakaway faction Islamic State West Africa Province are fighting to impose extremist policies on Nigeria. Thousands have been killed in the more than 10-year insurgency and more than a million people have been displaced.

Bensouda said the preliminary probe took a decade to complete in part because her office was monitoring investigations in Nigeria linked to the conflict.

"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,” she said.

Amnesty International welcomed the announcement and urged the court to swiftly begin an “effective and well-resourced investigation.”

Netsanet Belay, the director of research and advocacy at Amnesty International, called it “the first meaningful step towards justice that we have seen for victims of atrocious crimes committed by all parties to the conflict in north-east Nigeria.”