The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into alleged human rights abuses committed by Nigeria
– Nigerian army soldiers have been accused of committing atrocities while fighting against Boko Haram
– The federal government has said it was ready to fully cooperate while retaining its sovereign right to punish law breakers The International Criminal Court (ICC) has started the process of investigating alleged human rights abuses committed by the Nigerian military.
The Netherlands-based court will also investigate abuses by Boko Haram, the terror group whose activities have caused the death of at least 20,000 people in Nigeria since 2009.
The Nigerian military has been accused of illegal killings and incarceration by local and international groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. However, on Wednesday, the Nigerian government expressed its commitment to upholding the highest standards of human rights in the conduct of all its affairs, including counter insurgency operations in the country.
The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, made the pledge when he received a delegation from the office of Madame Fatou Bensouda, the ICC Prosecutor. In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Salihu Isah, the minister assured the delegation that Nigeria had high value for its relationship with the ICC.
Mr Malami said that the Nigerian army has conducted its operations in the North East region of the country in a highly professional manner, imbibing the best practices regarding international human rights. He also said that he was aware of the eight case files opened against Nigeria by the ICC which the prosecutor intended to investigate in her next stage of assessment of Nigeria.
According to him, six of the alleged cases were committed by Boko Haram while the remaining two were carried out by the Nigerian Armed Forces. The minister insisted that Nigeria had the prerogative rights in handling the alleged crimes referred to in the prosecutor’s 2015 report of activities in the country.
“Let me reiterate that Nigeria retains the sovereign capacity to investigate and punish the alleged crimes referred to in the report and will therefore continue present efforts in the above direction,” Mr Malami insisted. He further added that the government was committed to ensuring that troops were guided by the rules of engagement, promising that any infractions would be severely dealt with.
He solicited the support and understanding of ICC and the international community especially in regards to the conduct of the affairs of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Responding, the leader of delegation Phakiso Choko said that the prosecutor did not intend to compromise the sovereign rights of Nigeria in investigating crimes and meting out punishment.
He said that most cases referred to the ICC were the ones host nations were unable to resolve through internal mechanism. The prosecutor, through the delegation, expressed her support and willingness to work with Nigeria in addressing all identified crimes and criminality against humanity.
The news comes amid growing calls for the Nigerian military and security forces to be investigated for carrying out atrocities against pro- Biafra agitators and Shiites. Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai has come under renewed pressure to resign and apologise for the army’s actions in Zaria last December when hundreds of Shiite Muslims were killed by his soldiers.