The International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced that it has extended its preliminary examinations on possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Nigeria to cover the clashes between Nigerian soldiers and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a body of Shi’ite Muslims in the country.
The ICC is also extending the examinations to the clashes between the Nigerian soldiers and a separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra.
The ICCI disclosed this in its 2019 edition of the annual Report of Preliminary Examination Activities issued by the office of its Prosecutor headed by Mrs Fatou Bensouda.
The report dated December 5, 2019 indicated that preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria was announced on November 18, 2010.
It noted that the Office of the ICC Prosecutor on November 12, 2015 “identified eight potential cases involving the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes under articles 7 and 8” of the Rome Statutes.
The report, which stated that Nigeria was among the countries under Phase 3 examinations by the Office of the Prosecutor, added that its latest updated “subject-matter assessment” had increased the number of potential cases involving Nigeria from eight to 10.
Of the 10 cases now under the ICC preliminary examination, seven of them were said to be for Boko Haram and three for the Nigerian security forces.
The issues of the security forces’ clashes with Shi’ites’ and IPOB members as well as communal clashes in Benue, Plateau and other North-Central states and in some parts of the North-East were said to have been thrown up in the latest updated assessment by the ICC Prosecutor.
Both the IMN and the IPOB have been proscribed and designated as terrorist organisations by the Federal Government on the account of the groups’ alleged violent activities.
A judicial inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government to investigate the December 2015 clash between the IMN members and soldiers in the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, concluded that the military killed 347 IMN members in Zaria, Kaduna State, the base of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky.
A few IPOB members were also said to have been killed during the September 2017 Operation Python Dance II carried out by the Army to quell the agitation for secession by the South-East group.
A soldier was said to have been killed during the IMN members’ clash with the Army in 2015 and IPOB members were also alleged to have killed some members of the security forces on different occasions.
The ICC report stated in its 2019 report that it had received 15 communications concerning the clashes and communal violence in the North-Central and North-East.
While it said it had been reviewing the allegations, it expressed concern about allegations of “ongoing evidence tampering and of alleged destruction of evidence” in respect of the IMN members clash with the Army.
The report stated, “During the reporting period, the office worked on finalising its assessment on subject-matter jurisdiction with respect to the events which took place in December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna State, when members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria reportedly clashed with the NSF (Nigerian security forces.
“Other allegations that the office has been reviewing include allegations with respect to the conduct of the NSF against members of the Indigenous People of Biafra and communal violence in Nigeria’s North-Central and North-East,” the report stated.