International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Boko Haram & the Nigerian government: what is the best route for justice?

There was one report on the front page of the Human Rights Watch website that I, unfortunately, only took notice of this week, but demonstrates a concern that I have had throughout our ICC section of the class: the ongoing cycle of revenge between government officials and perpetrators of human rights violations. Human Rights Watch researchers have compiled a 98-page report detailing the atrocities being committed by the Boko Haram extremist group in Nigeria, crimes that are “likely to amount to crimes against humanity”. The Nigerian government has been making efforts to bring an end to the violence that since “2009, has claimed more than 28,00 lives”, but the Human Rights Watch does not find these efforts sufficient or appropriate.

Boko Haram is a high risk extremist group and even having killed the leader “Muhammed Yusuf, along with at least several dozen of his followers” did not prevent the group from reemerging just one year later. At this point, the tension between Boko Haram and Nigerian officials has escalated, resulting in the current killing spree between the Nigerian police and the extremist group. The rise of the extremist group is a result of President Goodluck Jonathan’s election victory, “from the predominantly Christian south, over Mohammadu Buhari, from the predominantly Christian north” (Jurist).

Strong religious undertones have only escalated the violence and though the Nigerian government has promised to work with the ICC for a thorough investigation, there have been no signs of such cooperation. I commend the Nigerian government for wanting to handle domestic issues in their domestic courts, but the conflict with Boko Haram is just too violent and dangerous for that to be a possibility without some sort of intervention from an international power. Furthermore, the direct attacks that Boko Haram have been making on the Nigerian police force have made the police officers extremely vengeful, which has solidified this cycle of violent revenge in the country.

What is the best solution here? Essentially, Nigeria should deal with Boko Haram through the domestic court system, but first, the government must get the perpetrators arrested on a mass scale and into the court room. Efficient domestic trials, reestablishing religious tolerance, and convicting the perpetrators for their crimes will prove to the Nigerian people that religious violence will not be tolerated, as well as the government’s dedication to protecting people. There is nothing more dangerous than an ongoing cycle of violence between the police force and a rebel group, a conflict that mostly ends up hurting innocent civilians. Though the Human Rights Watch is proposing even more interference from international bodies than I agree with, but I do agree in the necessity of getting international bodies involved in order to start a fair trial process for the perpetrators.


One response to “Boko Haram & the Nigerian government: what is the best route for justice?

  1. dlawrence27 November 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

    As an update to this issue, last week Amnesty International released a report, Nigeria: Trapped in the cycle of violence, documenting the human rights violations of both Boko Haram and security forces in response. Such response violations operating outside the rule of law include enforced disappearance, torture, extrajudicial executions, and detention without trial. Both sides are trapped in a cycle of violence and impunity with little regard for human rights. The ICC is a court of last resort, and should only intervene if Nigeria is unable to do so. ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has urged Nigeria to act, saying that provided Nigeria solves the problem through its own judicial system, the ICC would not intervene. As it is, the Nigerian government is failing to fulfill its responsibility to put in place efficient and just trials to address these serious problems. It therefore appears that Nigeria’s judicial system has failed to address the issue and that it is time for the ICC to rethink their initial assessment.

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