ICC Cites Eight War Crimes Against Army, Boko Haram

Boko Haram killedIndications emerged on Saturday that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is citing the Nigerian Army for two possible war crimes in the ongoing war against Boko Haram.

Also cited for six war crimes is the terrorist sect, which has been responsible for over 10,000 deaths and displacement of million others from their homes since 2009.

The ICC, in its Preliminary Examination Report on Nigeria, is accusing the military of indiscriminate arrest, detention, torture and extrajudicial killings of people suspected to be Boko Haram fighters.

It also accused the army of launching attacks on civilian population as well as the recruitment of child soldiers by pro-government militia known as the Civilian Joint Task Force.

The Defence Headquarters, however, described the ICC report as “biased, subjective and unacceptable”.

It said yesterday that the conclusions drawn by the agency without hearing the military side has already casted a shadow of doubt on the report’s credibility.

The ICC claimed that troops have “arbitrarily targeted and arrested” up to 20,000 people, mostly young men in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States since 2011.

“Altogether, more than 7,000 people reportedly died in military detention since March 2011 due to illness, poor condition and overcrowding of detention facilities, torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions”, it said.

It added: “In the town of Baga, Borno State, up to 228 persons may have been killed following a security operation on 17 April 2013.

“Human Rights Watch published geospatial images of the area affected, alleging that at least 2,275 dwellings were destroyed in the attack.

“Although the central government prohibits the recruitment and use of child soldiers, it is reported that the Civilian Joint Task Force recruited and used children, sometimes by force. Further information on these allegations is however required.”

Reacting to the weighty allegations yesterday, the Director of Defence Information, Colonel Rabe Abubakar, said that instead of being attacked with subtle blackmail and propaganda, the Nigerian military deserves to be commended for its gallant contributions to global peace and security operations.

“The Nigerian military conducts its operations to protect Nigerians and the nation’s territorial integrity; it is constitutionally empowered to protect lives, property as well as protect the sanctity of its territories against both internal and external aggression in whatever form and under whatever guise”, he said.

“The Nigerian military operates within laws, code of conduct and rules of engagement to execute operations in line with the best global military standards; our officers and men have steadfastly been serving our nation and making huge sacrifices, especially against the activities of Boko Haram terrorists and our citizens are happy with the successes recorded.

“Moreover, there was no iota of accusatory evidence from any Nigerian individual, organisation or group against our forces.

“It is apt to put it on record straightaway that even when we were accused of human rights violation, no iota of allegation comes from Nigerians but from external interests or those who stand as proxy for such interests.

“We constituted a powerful committee and invited the human right group to serve but they declined.

“So this report is unacceptable, biased and one-sided as our views were never sought; it is based on mere hearsay which does not hold water in any court of law.

“Therefore, the Nigerian military which has high respect for law is not in agreement with this one-sided subjective and biased judgment, especially as there was no fairness exhibited at all.

“We will not be deterred in putting in our best to end this menace no matter the blackmail or propaganda from whatever source”.

On the war crimes committed by Boko Haram, the ICC said the sect was liable for indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians.

“This case includes attacks conducted against civilians when taking control of towns and villages as well as bomb attacks launched against civilians in civilian areas”, it said, citing 356 reported incidents of killings by Boko Haram in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Plateau, Kano, the Abuja, Gombe, Kaduna, Bauchi between January 2013 and March 2015 and occasionally in Cameroon (since February 2013) and Niger Republic.

It said over 8,000 civilians have been killed in such incidents.

Continuing, the ICC said: “Following military operations since February 2015 during which territory previously held by Boko Haram was recaptured, mass graves or other sites with decomposed bodies were discovered allegedly containing the bodies of civilians killed by Boko Haram.”

It also accused the sect of abducting 1,885 people in 55 incidents between January 2014 and March 2015 mostly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.

“Boko Haram reportedly also detained thousands of civilians in its camps and in towns under its control in Borno state and other undetermined areas in the north-east of Nigeria, including in the Sambisa forest, around Lake Chad, and near the Gorsi mountains in Cameroon”.

“For example, in Bama town, hundreds of men were reportedly held by Boko Haram in the town’s prison for several weeks before being executed”, the report added.

Boko Haram was equally accused of attacking schools, other educational buildings as well as students and teachers.

“Between January 2012 and October 2013, 70 teachers and more than 100 schoolchildren and students were reportedly killed or wounded.

“In May 2014, Nigeria Union of Teachers reported that at least 173 teachers had been killed between 2009 and 2014, Borno State officials have cited a slightly higher figure of 176 teachers.

“At least 50 schools were either burned down or badly damaged and 60 more were forced to close. In March 2014, the Borno State government decided to close all secondary schools in the state in order to protect students and teachers from further attacks.

“In addition, as a result of direct threats from Boko Haram, 120 schools were forced to close in 10 districts of the Far North of Cameroon. Boko Haram was included as a new party on the list of the Secretary General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict (2014) for attacks against schools among other alleged conduct”.