AFTER over a decade of preliminary examination, the International Criminal Court, ICC, on December 11, 2020, announced its decision to formally open an investigation into allegations of war crimes against Nigerian security forces.
ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said the court found reasonable basis to investigate Nigerian soldiers for crimes against humanity, alleged to have been committed in the course of prosecuting the counter-insurgency war in the North-East.
The ICC’s preliminary examination in the process of holding Nigerian military to account over alleged war crimes began precisely on November 18, 2010.
In 2019, the examination was expanded to cover clashes between Nigerian soldiers and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a body of Shi’ite Muslims, and the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
After the preliminary examination, the ICC said it had found sufficient reasons to conclude that both the Nigerian military and Boko Haram committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
According to ICC, the allegations against Nigerian soldiers include rape, murder, torture, cruel treatment, conscription of children below the age of 15 into the military and causing them to actively participate in hostilities, persecution on gender and political grounds and other inhumane acts.
Other areas of probe include enforced disappearance, forcible transfer of population, outrages upon personal dignity, unlawful imprisonment, and intentionally directing attacks against civilian population and individuals not taking direct part in hostilities.
Expectedly, the Nigerian Army has denied any wrong doing in the course of prosecuting the war against insurgency. Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai described the probe as wicked and unnecessary distractions, insisting that all wrongful actions taken during the war against insurgency have been addressed through the appropriate channels.
As a signatory to the Rome Statute, we believe that Nigeria, and by extension, the Nigerian Army, is duty-bound to respect ICC’s decision to probe allegations of wrongdoings in the war against insurgency.
While we believe that the war against insurgency must be fought vigorously and supported by all, the actions of our soldiers must also meet international set standards for engaging enemy forces.
If indeed there are no dirts to hide as claimed by the Nigerian army authorities, then, ICC prosecutors should be granted unfettered access to information that will assist with inquiries into how the war against insurgency have been carried out so far.
War crimes such as listed above are serious allegations that cannot be dismissed by a wave of hand.
Military authorities must prove with indisputable facts that our soldiers have been above board in quelling the insurgents.