The International Criminal Court has begun preliminary investigations into claims of genocide and war crimes in Nigeria.
In a statement on Monday, the Court reiterated its call for politicians to refrain from electoral offences, noting that it had the capacity to prosecute culpable individuals “whenever necessary”.
“The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial investigations and prosecution of the crimes of genocides, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” said Fatou Bensouda, the ICC Prosecutor.
“The Office of the Prosecutor has opened investigations in: Uganda; Democratic Republic of Congo; Darfur, Sudan; Central African Republic; Kenya; Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.
“The Office is also conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Afghanistan, Columbia, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Iraq, Nigeria, Ukraine and Palestine.”
In September last year, a group, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, HEDA, petitioned the ICC at The Hague over the possible culpability of Nigerian government officials in the terrorist activities of Boko Haram.
Also, last month, a coalition of civil society organizations in Nigeria held a meeting with a team from the ICC on ways to reduce violence during the forthcoming elections.
In his statement, Mr. Bensouda reiterated the ICC’s resolve to go after persons who ordered or incited electoral violence.
“At a time when abhorrent levels of violence already plague parts of the country, I recall that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on the territory of Nigeria,” Mr. Bensouda said.
“Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence in the context of the upcoming elections or otherwise – including by ordering, inciting, encouraging or contributing to the commission of crimes that fall within ICC’s jurisdiction – is liable to prosecution; either by Nigerian Courts or by the ICC.
“No one should doubt my Office’s resolve to prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of ICC crimes, whenever necessary.”
The ICC further reiterated that electoral violence is not the solution for aggrieved parties in an election.
“The conduct and outcome of elections in Nigeria, free from violence, will not only prevent further instability in the country, but will also send a clear message that electoral competition does not have to result in violence and crimes that shock the conscience of humanity,” said Mr. Bensouda.