ICC investigates Nigerian security services for “crimes against humanity”

ICC investigates Nigerian security services for “crimes against humanity”

Statement by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda upon Completion of a Preliminary Study of the Situation in Nigeria

Today I announce the completion of the preliminary review of the situation in Nigeria.

As I stated last year at the Annual Assembly of States Parties, before ending my term as an attorney for the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “Court”)


I intend, as far as possible, to take decisions on all files that have passed the preliminary examination within the framework of my mandate. In this statement, I also pointed out the high likelihood that several preliminary examinations will move into the investigation stage. After a thorough process, I can announce today that the legal criteria for initiating an investigation into the situation in Nigeria have been met.

In particular, my office has concluded that there are reasonable grounds for believing that Boko Haram members and splinter groups have committed the following acts amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes: murder; rape, sexual slavery, including forced pregnancy and forced marriage; enslavement; torture; cruel treatment; encroachment on human dignity; taking a hostage; deliberately targeting civilians or individuals who do not take direct part in hostilities; deliberately targeting personnel, objects, materials, units or vehicles involved in the provision of humanitarian assistance; deliberate attacks on educational buildings, places of worship and similar institutions; to recruit and recruit children under the age of fifteen into armed groups and use them to actively participate in hostilities; persecution based on gender and religion; and other inhuman acts.

While my office recognizes that the vast majority of crimes in this situation are attributed to non-State actors, we also found reasonable grounds to believe that the Nigerian Security Forces (“NSF”)


committed the following acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes: murder, rape, torture and ill-treatment; enforced disappearance; forced displacement of the population; encroachment on human dignity; deliberately targeting the civilian population as such and against individual civilians not directly taking part in hostilities; illegal detention; to recruit and recruit children under the age of fifteen into the armed forces and use them to actively participate in hostilities; gender and political persecution; and other inhuman acts.

These allegations are also serious enough to warrant an investigation by my office, both quantitatively and qualitatively. My office will provide more information in our next annual preliminary audit report.

The preliminary screening was not lengthy due to the detection of crimes – moreover, back in 2013, the Bureau announced its findings on crimes in Nigeria, which have been regularly updated since then. The length of the preliminary investigation, which has been open since 2010, is due to the priority that my Office places on supporting the Nigerian authorities in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes nationwide.

I have always believed that the goals of the Rome Statute are best achieved by states that fulfill their primary responsibility to ensure national accountability. I have repeatedly emphasized my commitment to the ability of the Nigerian judiciary to combat these alleged crimes. We participated in several missions in Nigeria to support national efforts, shared our assessments and called on the authorities to act. In recent years, we have witnessed some attempts by the Nigerian judiciary to bring Boko Haram members to justice, mainly against captured low-level fighters for belonging to a terrorist organization. The military authorities also informed me that they had reviewed and dismissed the charges against their troops.

I have given a lot of time to proceed with these proceedings, taking into account the general requirements for partnership and oversight that should guide our approach to complementarity. However, in our estimation, none of these court proceedings are connected, even indirectly, with the forms of behavior or categories of people that could become the object of my research. While this does not prevent the authorities from conducting appropriate and genuine proceedings, it does mean that, under the current circumstances, the requirements of the Statute have been fulfilled in order to continue the work of my Office.

In the future, the next step will be to obtain permission from the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to initiate an investigation. The office is faced with a situation where several pre-exams have reached or are approaching the same stage, while we are faced with operational problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the one hand, and our limitations on the other hand, the operational capacity is due to for excessive resources. This is also taking place in the context of the pressure the pandemic is putting on the global economy. In this context, in the near future, we will need to make several strategic and operational decisions to prioritize the Office’s workload, which also takes due account of the legitimate expectations of victims and affected communities, as well as others. interesting. This is a topic that I will also discuss with the new prosecutor, after the election, as part of the transitional discussions that I intend to have. In the meantime, my office will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure the integrity of future investigations into the situation in Nigeria.

The situation we face due to a lack of resources underlines the clear mismatch between the resources provided to my office and the ever-increasing demands placed on it. This is a situation that requires not only prioritization of the Office, to which we remain firmly committed, but also open and frank discussions with the Assembly of States Parties and other stakeholders of the Rome Statute system, the real resources of my office are necessary to effectively fulfill its statutory mandate.

As we move towards the next steps regarding the situation in Nigeria, I count on the full support of the Nigerian authorities, as well as of the Assembly of States Parties as a whole, on whose support the Court ultimately depends. And as we look forward to future investigations as part of the independent and impartial implementation of our mandate, I look forward to a constructive and collaborative exchange of views with the Government of Nigeria to determine how best to send justice within the overall framework of complementary domestic and international action.

The ICC prosecutor’s office conducts independent and impartial preliminary investigations, investigations and prosecutions in relation to the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has investigated a variety of situations falling under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, especially in Uganda; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; Central African Republic (two different situations); Kenya; Libya; Cote d’Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi, Bangladesh / Myanmar and Afghanistan (postponement possible pending consideration of Article 18). The Office is also conducting preliminary reviews of the situation in Bolivia; Colombia; Guinea; Philippines; Ukraine; and Venezuela (I and II), while the situation in Palestine is awaiting trial.


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