The Nigerian military has been accused by the International Criminal Court, ICC, of committing crimes against humanity in the war against Boko Haram.
In a Preliminary Examination Report on the army released by the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor on Thursday, eight possible cases of war crimes were identified.
The crimes, perpetrated by both the military and insurgents, fall under Article 7 and 8 of the International court’s statute.
According to the ICC, the Nigerian military’s indiscriminate arrest, detention, torture and extrajudicial killings of people suspected to be Boko Haram fighters and collaborators constituted the first instance of crime against humanity.
“During such arrest operations boys and men were reportedly arbitrarily targeted and arrested by Nigerian Security Forces. Since 2011, Nigerian Security Forces have reportedly arrested at least 20,000 people, mostly young men in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States. Altogether, more than 7,000 people reportedly died in military detention since March 2011 due to illness, poor condition and overcrowding of detention facilities, torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions,” the report said.
The ICC prosecutor listed “attacks against civilians” as a second potential case against the Nigerian Security Forces. In the town of Baga, Borno State, up to 228 persons may have been killed following a security operation on 17 April 2013, The report said, quoting the Human Rights Watch which published geospatial images of the area affected, and alleged that at least 2,275 dwellings were destroyed in the attack.
Another ground for possible prosecution is the use of child soldiers which were reportedly recruited and used “sometimes by force” by the Civilian Joint Task Force. The report however said “Further information on these allegations is however required.”
The report also cited crimes against humanity perpetrated by the deadly Islamic group as, the indiscriminate attacks on civilians considered to be “disbelievers” as the first instance of crime against humanity.
“This case includes attacks conducted against civilians when taking control of towns and villages as well as bomb attacks launched against civilians in civilian areas
“From January 2013 to March 2015, 356 reported incidents of killings can be attributed to Boko Haram in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Plateau, Kano, the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), Gombe, Kaduna, Bauchi in Nigeria as well as occasionally in Cameroon (since February 2013) and Niger (Dumba and Diffa, since January 2015) which led to the killing of over 8,000 civilians.
“Following military operations since February 2015 during which territory previously held by Boko Haram was recaptured, mass graves or other sites with decomposed bodies were discovered allegedly containing the bodies of civilians killed by Boko Haram,” the report said.
ICC said the Islamic Sect between January 2014 and March 2015, committed 55 incidents of abductions involving at least 1,885 abductees mostly from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
The report noted that out of the 1,123 people abducted in 2014, 536 of them were females.
“Boko Haram reportedly also detained thousands of civilians in its camps and in towns under its control in Borno state and other undetermined areas in the north-east of Nigeria, including in the Sambisa forest, around Lake Chad, and near the Gorsi mountains in Cameroon. For example, in Bama town, hundreds of men were reportedly held by Boko Haram in the town’s prison for several weeks before being executed,” the report added.
The report further identified other crimes against humanity as, Boko Haram’s propensity of attacking schools and other educational buildings as well as attacks on students and teachers as the third instance of crime against humanity committed by the terror group.
The recruitment of child soldiers, attacks on girls and women constituted another instance of the sects potential case of crime against humanity.
The report concluded that the increasing attacks on females were for punitive reasons and for reasons such as cooking, cleaning and other operational reasons.