ICC suspects Boko Haram of crimes against humanity
The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has a "reasonable basis" to believe Boko Haram Islamists have committed crimes against humanity in Nigeria, her office said Monday.
Nigerian authorities should prosecute acts of murder and persecution attributed to the radical group that have claimed more than 1 200 lives since mid-2009 or the ICC could step in, the prosecutor said in a report seen by AFP.
"There is a reasonable basis to believe that since July 2009, Boko Haram has committed the following acts constituting crimes against humanity," namely murder and persecution, the report said.
The report also cited a "reasonable basis" to believe that Boko Haram has "launched a widespread and systematic attack that has resulted in the killings of more than 1 200 Christians and Muslims."
The group is pursuing a policy of "imposing an exclusive Islamic system of government in northern Nigeria at the expense of Christians specifically," the report said.
The prosecutor's office noted that Nigerian security forces may also have carried out human rights violations in its operations against the group, but said it had no indication that this was part of a "state or organisational policy to attack the civilian population."
The prosecutor's office said it would assess whether Nigerian authorities "are conducting genuine proceedings in relation to those who appear to bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes".
Under the ICC's complementarity principle, the court can step in only if national authorities are unwilling or unable to prosecute the crimes in question.
The ICC's new chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in July that the ICC did not plan to intervene provided that Nigeria takes action through its own judicial system.
"The intention is not to intervene, but the intention is to ensure that Nigeria has the primary responsibility of investigating," she said during her first visit to Nigeria after taking office.
Violence linked to Boko Haram's insurgency is believed to have left some 3 000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
The group has claimed to be seeking an Islamist state in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer whose population is roughly divided between Christians and Muslims.
However, its demands have repeatedly shifted and the group is believed to include various factions with differing aims, in addition to imitators and criminal gangs who carry out violent attacks while posing as members of the group.