A group, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, HEDA, has petitioned the International Criminal Court, ICC, at The Hague over the possible culpability of Nigerian government officials in the terrorist activities of Boko Haram.
In a petition dated September 1, 2014, and addressed to Fatou Bensouda of the ICC’s Office of the Trial Prosecutor, HEDA demanded a comprehensive examination of the heinous crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Boko Haram group in Nigeria.
The demand came on the heels of the revelations by Stephen Davies, the Australian negotiator, that some high ranking Nigerian government officials were sponsoring the terrorist group.
“This is only in line with your office’s promise in a statement issued in response to the criminal abduction of 279 school children of Chibok community in Borno State,” HEDA said in the petition signed by its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju.
“We equally wish to request that you investigate and prosecute any international crime that may have been committed by the Boko Haram terrorist group and their sponsors, under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
The group stated that its petition was based on the ICC’s condemnation of the abduction of the Chibok school girls wherein it stated that such crimes could fall under its jurisdiction.
“The situation in Nigeria has been under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC since 2010. In August 2013, the Office issued a report concluding that [there is a reasonable basis to believe that] Boko Haram has been committing crimes against humanity of murder and persecution since July 2009,” the ICC had said in a statement last April.
“Information gathered by the Office indicates that there has been a sharp increase in the frequency and intensity of attacks attributed to Boko Haram since January 2014, including a significant increase in alleged abductions of women and girls and of sexual slavery. Some of Boko Haram’s alleged crimes would also amount to war crimes, as the Prosecutor has recently concluded that the situation constitutes a non international armed conflict.
“As Nigeria is a State Party to the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on the territory of Nigeria or by its nationals from 1 July 2002 onwards. Having concluded that some of the alleged crimes committed in the Nigeria situation fall within subject-matter jurisdiction of the ICC, the Office of the Prosecutor is currently assessing relevant national proceedings in conformity with the principle of complementarity,” the ICC had noted.
Under the Rome Statute, the Nigerian authorities have primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute the alleged crimes, according to the ICC.
“Such cases may become admissible before the ICC if there are no relevant investigations or prosecutions in Nigeria, or if the national authorities are unwilling or unable to carry out genuine investigations or prosecutions,” the ICC had said.
HEDA noted that the number of internally displaced people due to the activities of Boko Haram insurgents since 2010 has risen to 3.3 million, while the death toll since 2009 is above 22,000.
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