27 November 2012

Nigeria: UN Criminal Court Sets to Prosecute Boko Haram Activities

A global groundswell against Boko Haram terrorists' activities is building as the International Criminal Court has now decided through the Office of the Prosecutor, OTP, to probe what is suspected to be crimes against humanity committed by the terror organisation.

This is coming just as suicide bombers, suspected to be terrorists in a fashion similar to Boko Haram attacked a military church in Jaji, Kaduna State over the weekend.

Reacting to Sunday's twin bombing of a military church in Jaji, Dr. James Fadele, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN said not only are the attacks condemnable, but added that the "world should take notice that even when the terrorists wanted to attack the military, they went to attack a church, not the mosque."

While the ICC made this decision public at its just concluded States Parties Assembly meeting over the weekend in Netherlands, the US Congress which resumes work on Monday after an election break will also be reviewing a draft bill demanding that the US State Department designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization, FTO, or explain why it cannot.

Conversely, while the ICC has determined to continue its probe of Boko Haram violence and crime, the Court is turning down claims that the Nigerian security forces in their operations against Boko Haram may have also committed "serious human rights violations."

Some human rights organization, like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International had alleged that the Nigerian military has been committing crimes against humanity just as Boko Haram too has been accused of by those human right groups.

But according to a release by the ICC at its meeting last week "information available at this stage does not permit a finding of a reasonable basis to believe that such acts were committed pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to attack the civilian population."

The ICC speaking through the Office of the Prosecutor observed that "there is also currently no reasonable basis to believe that the confrontations between the security forces and Boko Haram amount to an armed conflict."

However the court's Office of the Prosecutor added that "these initial assessments may be revisited in the light of new facts or evidence."

Regarding Boko Haram, the ICC in its November 2012 report stated that the Prosecutor has decided "that the preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria should advance to phase 3 (admissibility) with a view to assessing whether the national authorities are conducting genuine proceedings in relation to those who appear to bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes, and the gravity of such crimes."

According to the report, the ICC prosecutor "considers that there is a reasonable basis to believe that since July 2009, Boko Haram has committed the following acts constituting crimes against humanity: (i) murder under article 7(1)(a) and (ii) persecution under article 7(1)(h) of the Statute."

In addition, the report noted that "in particular, the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that since July 2009 Boko Haram has launched a widespread and systematic attack that has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 Christian and Muslims civilians in different locations throughout Nigeria, including Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe and Kano States in the North as well as Abuja, Kaduna and Plateau States in Central Nigeria."

Continuing the report from the prosecutor explained that "the consistent pattern of such incidents indicates that the group possesses the means to carry out a widespread and/or systematic attack, and displays internal coordination and organizational control required to that end."

It was further stated that the Boko Haram attacks have "been committed pursuant to the policy defined at the leadership level of Boko Haram, which aims at imposing an exclusive Islamic system of government in northern Nigeria at the expense of Christians specifically."

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is responsible for determining whether a situation meets the legal criteria established by the Rome Statute ("Statute") to warrant investigation by the Court. For this purpose, the Office conducts a preliminary examination of all situations that come to its attention based on statutory criteria and the information available.

According to the prosecutor's office "opponents to this goal," of islamising Nigeria, have been targeted as well.

It was noted that Boko Haram leaders or spokesmen have issued public statements evincing the intention to attack civilians in furtherance of this policy, including a January 2012 ultimatum urging Christians to leave Northern Nigeria. "

Under the provisions of the international court, the targeting of an identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender or other ground is a constitutive element of the crime of persecution.

Commenting on the role of the government and specifically the Joint Military operations against the terrorist sect, the ICC indicated that "although allegations against Nigerian security forces in the context of their operations against Boko Haram may reflect serious human rights violations, the information available at this stage does not permit a finding of a reasonable basis to believe that such acts were committed pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to attack the civilian population.

The prosecutor's office then commended the cooperation of various Nigerian government establishments including the presidency in their cooperation with the OTP which is saddled with the responsibility of carrying out the investigation for the Court.

In a similar vein, at the US Congressman, a Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, Pat Meehan has stated that he would be tabling a draft bill in the Congress to have Boko Haram designated by the Us government a Foreign Terrorist Organization, FTO. According to Meehan, if the US State Department does not want to designate Boko Haram as groups as an FTO, the bill will compel the State Department to explain why not.

According to officials in the office of the Congressman, he would be working with the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN, in pushing support for the bill even in the last month of the current US Congress. A new Congressional session would commence in January 2013.

Speaking on the development, Dr. James Fadele, the Chairman of the CANAN Board of Trustees and the leading pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in North America said Nigerian Christians in the US would work with the US Congress to ensure that the bill in passed designating Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist organization.

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