The International Criminal Court, ICC, believes crimes against humanity and possible war crimes have been committed by the Nigerian military and the extremist sect, Boko Haram, in the last six years of the terror group’s brutal insurgency in Nigeria’s North East region.
A Preliminary Examination Report on Nigeria released on Thursday by the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor identified eight possible cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes under Article 7 and 8 of its statute, perpetrated by both the militants and the Nigerian military.
Six of the possible cases were perpetrated by Boko Haram while two were by the Nigerian military, ICC said.
The report stated that Boko Haram’s policy of indiscriminate attacks on civilians considered to be “disbelievers” constituted 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,” the report said.
“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,” it adds.
The report stated that the ICC recorded 55 incidents of abductions committed by the Islamist sect between January 2014 and March 2015, involving at least 1,885 abductees mostly from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
The report also added that in 2014 alone 1,123 people were abducted 536 of them being female victims.
“Boko Haram reportedly also detained thousands of civilians in its camps and 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 third instance of crime against humanity identified in the report was Boko Haram’s propensity of attacking schools and other educational buildings as well as attacks on students and teachers.
“School buildings were allegedly bombed, attacked with firearms and/or burned down by Boko Haram. Boko Haram allegedly targeted primarily state schools under a policy that such schools are the main conduits through which western values are being transmitted to the local society. From mid-2013, Boko Haram attacks on schools, on schoolchildren and teachers increased significantly,” the report stated.
“Between January 2012 and October 2013, 70 teachers and more than 100 school children and students were reportedly killed or wounded. In May 2014, the Nigeria Union of Teachers reported that at least 173 teachers had been killed between 2009 and 2014, Borno State officials have cited a slightly higher figure of 176 teachers. At least 50 schools were either burned down or badly damaged, and 60 more were forced to close. In March 2014, the Borno State government decided to close all secondary schools in the state to protect students and teachers from further attacks.
“Also, as a result of direct threats from Boko Haram, 120 schools were forced to close in 10 districts of the Far North of Cameroon. Boko Haram was included as a new party on the list of the Secretary General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict (2014) for attacks against schools among other alleged conduct.”
Boko Haram’s policy of recruiting child soldiers constituted another instance of the sect’s alleged commission of war crime and crime against humanity, the ICC stated.
“While there is no information available on the total number of child soldiers, the UN reported the recruitment and use of children as young as 12 years old by Boko Haram. Several witnesses reported that they saw children in the ranks of Boko Haram during attacks. Boko Haram reportedly pressured boys to join their group by threatening their families through cash payments. Others may be recruited through Quranic schools.
“Most of the children are allegedly used for intelligence gathering, tracking the movements of enemy forces, transportation of weapons and for participating in the attacks including for the torching of buildings dedicated to education and religion. In propaganda videos attributed to Boko Haram, child soldiers can be seen being trained to use firearms.”
The sect’s attacks on girls and women formed the basis of Boko Haram fifth possible case of crime against humanity, the report stated.
According to the ICC, the increasing attacks on female subjects were for disciplinary reasons such as attendance at school and reasons such as cooking, cleaning and other operational reasons.
The report observed that the abduction of 276 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State on 14 April 2014 was the most notorious example of this crime.
It further observed that the increasing use of women and girls as suicide bombers represents an escalation of this crime.
The report said Boko Haram attacks on places of worship constituted the sect’s sixth commission of war crime.
“The intentional targeting of buildings dedicated to religion, including churches and mosques makes a potential sixth case against Boko Haram. According to the Office’s analysis, the number of destructions of civilian buildings, including churches and mosques, gradually increased since January 2014 and peaked between November 2014 and March 2015,” the report stated.
On crimes allegedly committed Nigerian security forces, the ICC said the first instance is the indiscriminate arrest, detention, torture and extrajudicial killings of people suspected to be Boko Haram fighters and collaborators.
“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 second instance of crimes committed by the military is its attack of the civilian population as well as the recruitment of child soldiers by the pro-government militia called the Civilian JTF.
“Attacks against civilians form the subject of 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. 55 Human Rights Watch published geospatial images of the area affected, alleging that at least 2,275 dwellings were destroyed in the attack.
“Finally, although the central government prohibits the recruitment and use of child soldiers, it is reported that the Civilian Joint Task Force recruited and used children, sometimes by force. Further information on these allegations is however required,” the report added.
The ICC report corroborates reports from other prominent human rights organisations such as Human Right Watch and Amnesty International, which have denounced the abuses perpetrated by Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces in the war in the country’s North East.