Nigeria “unwilling to prosecute” Boko Haram – Amnesty International
Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian government of refusing to bring those involved in the Boko Haram Islamic terrorist insurgency to justice. The Human rights organisation, speaking on Monday 10 December, in Abuja requested the International Criminal Court (ICC) to begin a comprehensive investigation into atrocities committed, both by the Boko Haram terrorists as well as the Nigerian military forces.
Boko Haram Jihadist have killed more than 200,000 people, predominantly Christians in middle and Northeastern Nigeria as at 2015. It has destroyed over 13000 churches and displaced over two million Christians in its decade long campaign to establish sharia law in the country and force all Christians to convert to Islam.
In its campaign against the radical Islamic sect, the Nigerian Security forces have been accused of committing human rights abuses both in camps of the Internally Displaced Persons, where thousands of displaced Christians have been living for over eight years and in villages and communities in the north east.
Fatma Bensouda, ICC chief prosecutor, in her report released 5 December, said the Nigeria government has not taken any “concrete steps” towards investigating the allegations against the army. While there seemed to be “tangible prospect” of proceedings against Boko Haram members, the army however “tend to deny any allegation” against it.
“The Nigerian government is unwilling and unable to meet its obligations as a member of the ICC to investigate and prosecute both Boko Haram and the Nigerian military,” Amnesty said, pointing out new findings by the ICC that reaffirmed a lack of accountability on the Nigerian government.
Indicting the Nigerian army fighting Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, Amnesty International said it had documented the extra-judicially killings of more than 1,200 people and arbitrarily arrested at least 20,000, of whom at least 7,000 have died as a result of the inhumane conditions in custody as at June 2015.
“Eight years since the opening of the preliminary examination and faced with the continuing commission of crimes under international law and the possibility of a never-ending preliminary analysis, it is time for the OTP (Office of the Prosecutor) to open a formal investigation in Nigeria,” Amnesty declared.
Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa director for research and advocacy, said in a statement. “The Nigerian government has no intention to undertake genuine investigations, instead it has pursued ‘sham’ criminal proceedings to ‘shield’ perpetrators from an ICC investigation and to give a ‘veneer’ of accountability in Nigeria,” Belay said and called for “a full investigation into the atrocities that have been committed in northeast Nigeria.”
Belay pointed out that even the Nigerian government’s “prosecution of Boko Haram” was only focused on “membership or support” for the Jihadists rather than the crimes; the massacres, destructions of communities and abductions by the terrorists. He called criminal proceedings regarding crimes committed by Boko Haram as superficial.
The ICC’s report also said the ‘mass trials’ conducted by the government against suspected members of Boko Haram, since October 2017, have so much flaws that it is impossible to conclude that those convicted were actually guilty of any crime.
“Despite much publicity and posturing neither military led inquiry – the Special Board of Inquiry or the Presidential investigation panel – was ever intended, designed or conducted with a view to result in criminal prosecutions, or even to identify perpetrators and recommend further criminal investigations or prosecutions,” the Human rights organisation said.
Reacting to the accusation, General John Agim, a spokesperson for the Defence Headquarters, said “Amnesty International has become a major distraction that we have to overcome in the war against Boko Haram,” adding that the organisation “usually spend years accusing serving commanders, but when those ones are out, they immediately leave them and shift their focus on the new ones in service,” Agim asked Amnesty to “take any evidence they have to the ICC and leave the Nigerian government and military out of it.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos