ICC: Boko Haram in crimes against humanity

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has accused a group of Islamist radicals of committing crimes against humanity in Nigeria. According to the OTP’s “2012 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities” (PDF), there is a reasonable basis to conclude that Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that endeavors to create an Islamic state, has violated several provisions under Article 7 of the Rome Statute since launching a widespread attack in July 2009 that has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 Christian and Muslim civilians throughout Nigeria.

In particular, Boko Haram has allegedly committed crimes of against humanity under Article 7’s provisions related to murder and persecution. The Prosecutor also found that the attacks have been committed pursuant to the policies of Boko Haram leadership, which seeks to impose an exclusive Islamic government at the expense of Christians. Given the findings, the OTP has advanced the preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria to phase 3, which entails an assessment of whether Nigerian authorities are conducting genuine proceedings as a result of the alleged crimes. The report also noted that there was no reasonable basis to conclude that Niger Delta militants and Nigerian government security forces had also committed crimes against humanity in Nigeria, as alleged by Human Rights Watch last month.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin,” has been fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state and has warned Christians in the mostly Muslim northern regions to leave the area. The group has publicly claimed responsibility for several attacks, including church bombings on Dec. 25 that killed approximately 40 people last year. In January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged Nigerian leaders from all sectors of society to make a concerted effort to stop the sectarian violence.

The Christmas day bombings were internationally condemned, including being labeled as “senseless violence” by the White House and acts of “blind hatred” by the Vatican. Additionally, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has previously expressed concern over acts of ethnic violence by Boko Haram. Specifically, the Office described the group’s bombing of a UN building in Nigeria in August 2011 as “cowardly.” At least 18 people were killed in the attack.

From Jurist, Nov. 26. Used with permission.

  1. Boko Haram in twin bombings at army church
    A suicide bomber rammed a bus into a church at a military barracks in the northern Nigeria town of Jaji on Nov. 25, and another detonated his explosives-packed car minutes later, killing 11 people and wounding dozens more. (SAPA-AFP, Nov. 27)

  2. Merry Christmas from Boko Haram —again
    For the second year in a row, presumed Boko Haram militants massacred Christians in a Christmas Day attack on a church. This time, at least six Christians are dead after a church in Peri village, near Potiskum, economic capital of northern Yobe state, was set on fire in an attack late on Christmas Eve. (BBC News, Dec. 25)

  3. Fighting rocks northern Nigeria
    Fighting between Nigeria’s military and presumed Boko Haram militants killed at least 185 people in the fishing community of Baga on the banks of Lake Chad in the far north. Insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and soldiers sprayed machine-gun fire into neighborhoods filled with civilians. (AP, April 21)