International Justice

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Tag Archives: Nigeria

Women to the Rescue

Nigeria may have more international criminal violations on its hands than just those actions of the Boko Haram extremist group. The Human Rights Watch group released a report last week that several women in Borno have been sexually assaulted and mistreated by security officers in the camps, where these women fled to escape the Boko Haram insurgency. Boko Haram has been accused of the forced displacements of thousands of people from their homes, as well as thousands of deaths and abductions. In response to the sexual assault allegations, the Nigerian state nigerian2barmypolice deployed 100 female officers to serve as security guards in the Borno camps, in the effort to better protect the women. President Buhari and other Nigerian officials called for the immediate investigation of such allegations. Nigeria is under preliminary investigations by the ICC for actions between Boko Haram and Nigerian Security officials.


Boko Haram Releases Female Students

The Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, has begun releasing the girls abducted in a school located in the town of Chibok. This mass abduction is what sparked the public protest of many celebrities back in the year 2014.  There have been clashing reports about the abuses carried out on these girls.  The chairman of the Chibok Development Association, Pogu Bitrus, told The Guardian that the girls were “used as domestic workers and porters, [but] they were not sexually abused.”  Other reports have been issued over the years claiming sexual abuse for those abducted, and a commander of Boko Haram released a claim saying those who were abducted were forced to marry the group’s leaders.


Despite the Nigerian government working on the release of the abducted girls, many are refusing or afraid to return home to Chibok.  There is a huge stigma placed on these girls leading to poor reception once they return home.  People from their community shame them for being “Boko Haram wives” viewing them as tained and impure, even those who were abducted and forced to join the group. Bitrus stated that it would be ideal for the released victims to receive the remainder of their education abroad in order to avoid the discrimination from their community.

The rise of Boko Haram started with their original leader, Mohammed Yusuf.  Yusuf grew up in poverty, begging on the streets in order to survive.  The name Boko Haram translates to english as “Western education is forbidden.” According to an article published by The Guardian, Boko Haram’s many crimes include, “killing police and soldiers, they slaughtered scores of civilians who were caught out in the open, slitting their throats like animals.” Even though Yusuf was eventually killed, the group continues to commit atrocities directed towards the government and civilians. Thousands have been killed, leaving millions displaced.


293 Women and Girls Rescued from Boko Haram

On Tuesday the 28th, the Nigerian military raided several Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest in northeastern Nigeria. After an initial series of unsuccessful operations rebels due to defensive explosives placed by Boko Haram militants residing in the forest, the Nigerian Armed forces successfully raided and destroyed the Tokumbre, Sassa, and Tlafa terror camps. Of these three, Tokuumbre is the most notorious, as it is the known location for the training of child soldiers.

In these raids, Nigerian Army spokesman Gen Chris Olukolade details that 200 girls and 93 women were rescued, but none belonged to the group of kidnapped girls from Chibok. Following the abduction of around 200 school girls from Chibok, the campaign of #BringBackOurGirls has lead to a large scale, world wide awareness of Boko Haram’s kidnappings and horrific mistreatment of women. While there was much hope that some of the rescued belonged to the group of kidnapped school girls as the Sambisa Forest is close to Chibok, this offensive against Boko Haram has given many hope that more captives will be found in the near future.

As the Nigerian military continues to gain ground in the fight against Boko Haram, it will be interesting to see if they call upon the ICC should there be any prosecutions against Boko Haram perpetrators. While it may be an option to try Boko Haram officials on an international stage at the Hague, the Nigerian government may also desire under the law of complementarity to host future trials within the country. Either way, it is the hope that Nigeria, in coalition with other countries, continues with victories against Boko Haram and removes the terrorist group as a powerful actor within West Africa.

Boko Haram’s Use of Females: Suicide Bombers

According to this article, recruited women are being used as suicide bombers. Four teenage girls carried out attacks in Kano – the biggest northern city. Social media sites speculated that Boko Haram turned some of 200 abducted schoolgirls in April into human bombs. While the Nigerian government dismissed this unfounded claim, government spokesperson Mike Omeri said (at the same time of government’s dismissal) that security forces arrested three people in Katsina – a neighboring state – three people strapped with explosive belts. Two of the three were girls, one aged 10 and the other 18. The attacks in Kano were not among the first. The first female bomber struck in June, riding a motorcycle into military barracks in the north-eastern city of Gombe. She detonated her explosives while being searched at a checkpoint and killed one soldier. Martin Ewi, a researcher in the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), told BBC, “To use female suicide bombers is the most dramatic strategy that an organisation can use. It becomes easier to penetrate targets because we are less suspicious about women.”

Fears for the safety of children have grown since the group abducted schoolgirls in April

The use of female suicide bombers shows desperation, but Ewi does not make any conclusions; Boko Haram may just be playing its card early. Boko Haram’s refusal to negotiate exchange between imprisoned commanders and abducted schoolgirls introduces the possibility that these girls may return with bombs. In contrast, Bawa Abdullahi Wase, a Nigeria-based security analyst, contends that female suicide bombers are more likely to be offsprings of Boko Haram members. Just like their parents, these girls have been indoctrinated and lead to believe that Boko Haram is waging a holy war against an infidel government and that its fighters will go to heaven. Whichever the case may be – religious doctrine or four million naria ($24,870) – Boko Haram is effectively recruiting female suicide bombers.

One Year Later – Chibok Girl Abductions

Tuesday April 14, 2015 marks one full year since the abduction of over 200 young girls and women from Chibok, Nigeria. The militant group Boko Haram abducted a reported 219 girls from Chibok a year ago.  Although international powers like China and the U.S. had pledged to help track down the group and locate the missing women in the wake of the incNigerian-girls-abducted-Bring-Back-Our-Girls-10ident, no justice has been brought to the Chibok families, the abducted women, or many of the Boko Haram members. While some individual girls were able to escape, many of them are still missing along with a suspected 2,000 others from across Nigeria who have been sold as sex slaves and cooks, or forced to become fighters. In memorial of this tragedy there will be several marches across the world to bring awareness and call for more international and domestic action in regards to justice for the victims of these horrible crimes and to stop Boko Haram from committing more terrible crimes. The Chibok Girls’s incident stands out as a internationally known human rights violation, but Boko Haram is still at large committing crimes in north eastern Nigeria at alarming rates which are still practically invisible to the world. Whether it’s ‘Bringing back our girls’ or just stopping human rights violations occurring regularly, more action needs to be taken internationally against the group.


Amnesty International publishes report on Boko Haram

Today, Amnesty International published a new report on “Boko Haram’s reign of terror in north-east Nigeria.” Amnesty stated that the report shows that Boko Haram has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and charges that these crimes have been treated with impunity.

The report contains background on the conflict in Nigeria, the legal framework for prosecuting them, a list of Boko Haram’s violations, and recommendations for different actors to take in dealing with the group. The report sheds light on the brutal methods used by the group, such as the abduction of women and girls who are forced into sexual slavery and forced to fight or the abduction of men and boys who are trained to fight or executed. It also documents the mass killings committed by the group through bomb attacks and raids on towns and villages.

The end of the report contains recommendations to the office of the prosecutor at the ICC on how to deal with Boko Haram:

  • “consider the information in this report as part of the Office’s determinations during the ongoing preliminary examination”
  • “discuss with the Nigerian authorities what steps the state is taking under its primary obligations under the Rome Statute to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate crimes under the Statute.

In its recommendations, it also implicates the Nigerian government for not taking the proper steps to investigate the conflict. None of the actors included in the recommendations have responded to these recommendations or the report overall yet.

UN seeks money for Boko Haram victims

Boko Haram is widely known as a radical Islamic militant group that has been prevalent in international news over the last year due to the numerous attacks against civilians in Nigeria and surrounding countries. Details of the horror committed by Boko Haram include attacks on villages, churches, mosques, and schools, including the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in April, 2014. Over the past six years, it has been estimated that these terrorist acts have caused the displacement of around 192,000 people in neighboring countries Cameroon, Niger, and Chad, as well as about 1.2 million within Nigeria.

In an attempt to help all of those who have fallen victim to attacks by Boko Haram, the UN is coordinating an effort to support these refugees by seeking $174 million in aid. Liz Ahuiha, the coordinator for the Nigeria refugee effort, believes the aid is crucial to helping victims, as “Displaced people in northeastern Nigeria and across borders are in a very dramatic situation, they fear for their lives and are at this point unable to return to their homes”. Should the UN agree to provide aid, the money will help provide these refugees with clean water, shelter, food, medical treatment, and access to education.

Given that the ICC has condemned actions by the radical Islamist group ISIS, it will be interesting to see if they come out with further condemnations and actions against the human abuse crimes committed by Boko Haram. As well, if the UN grants this money for aid, could it be possible for a UN referral for an ICC investigation? While that is a hope, it seems unlikely in the near future as the UN has not opened an investigation against ISIS.

24 Killed in Boko Haram Attack

The Islamic military group known as Boko Haram struck again late on Sunday night killing 24 people and wounding many others. In this attack the perpetrators disguised themselves as preachers and drove in cars up to a mosque in an isolated village known as Kwajafa in the Borno state of Nigeria. After arriving, the perpetrators waited for the civilians to leave the mosque then open fired as they were walking out. Boko Haram’s six years of terror in the state of Nigeria was the main reason for Muhammadu Buhari’s victory over Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria’s recent presidential election. Although much progress has been made in the fight against Boko Haram’s terror, the fact that these attacks are still taking place is a sign that the international community and the Nigerian government must do more to stop these insurgents.


Nigeria puts the One-Party State behind them, sets sights on Boko Haram

Yesterday marks the first time in Nigerian history that a president has succeeded his predecessor through an undisputed, democratic ballot election. Former President Goodluck Jonathan has peacefully accepted defeat in the recent presidential election, and urged his supporters to follow suit. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which Jonathan represented, had been in power since 1999 upon the end of a period of military rule. President-elect Muhammadu Buhari addressed the media today, congratulating his opponent on his efforts and exclaiming how proud he was of his country, “we have proven to the world that we are people who have embraced democracy. We have put [the] one-party state behind us.” The peaceful transfer of leadership coupled with Buhari’s commitment in fighting the corruption of the Nigerian elites sends a promising message to the international community, highlighting the direction the country is headed under its new leadership.

Even more important than bringing political and economic stabilization to Nigeria, this new administration has declared that it is prepared to do what ever it takes to combat and rid the country of Boko Haram’s presence. This effort will become more relevant in the international justice scene soon, as Buhari and his administration move forward in bringing Boko Haram to justice.

Human Rights Watch Calls for Greater Civilian Protection Against Boko Haram Attacks

Human Rights Watch published an article on Thursday of last week, condemning the continuation of violence carried out by Boko Haram in Western Africa, as well as criticizing Nigeria’s inability to deter the conflict and protect its citizens. So far this year, Boko Haram has been responsible for more than 1,000 civilian deaths and expanded its presence in the region by carrying out attacks in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger since February. These casualties from the past few months alone demonstrate a significant increase in the number of attacks being executed by the group, when compared to data collected from 2014 showing that Boko Haram killed at least 3,750 civilians during the entire year. While dealing with the issue of stopping the violent rebel group, Human Rights Watch researcher in Nigeria, Mausi Segun argues that concern must also be placed on how best to protect civilians in the meantime. Data collected by Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency suggests that since beginning their attacks in July 2009, Boko Haram is responsible for the displacement of nearly one million civilians, who were forced to flee their homes to avoid being either killed or recruited into the violent group.

Further investigation by Human Rights Watch into the growing conflict situation also provides evidence that Nigerian Security Forces have not taken the appropriate measures to adequately protect citizens from Boko Haram, and that military operations have done little to counter the group’s violent efforts, and only added to the number of civilians displaced and killed. This prompted the African Union to endorse a multinational task force including troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger in order to fight and contain Boko Haram’s violence, and to request a United Nations Security Council resolution to lend greater support. The ongoing situation in Nigeria is currently under preliminary examination by the ICC Prosecutor, which could potentially lead to the opening of an official investigation into the conflict. Because the ICC is a court of last resort, the Prosecutor is not willing to present the case to the Court unless he finds that the Nigerian state, after exhausting all resources, is overall unable to control the situation themselves; however, he did issue a statement in February of this year, warning that any act of violence carried out in Nigeria which falls under the jurisdiction of the Court, is susceptible to prosecution by the domestic court system as well as the ICC.

How will the international community respond to Boko Haram?

In this recent article, the international community’s complacence about becoming involved with Boko Haram is pointed out. Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group, has been committing atrocities across Nigeria. Founded in 2002, they began military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic State, and they have since sworn allegiance to ISIS. The complacency, regarding Africa, might be partly explained by the recent developments in Paris. However, this is not the first instance of African atrocities taking a backseat to other international issues. Why does this happen and how can the international community work to overcome it’s bias of interest? Is that possible? The ICTJ article claims that action needs to be taken now in order to stop Boko Haram, which I agree with, however what exact type of action is unclear. Is the only way to stop Boko Haram by use of military? After all, even if research is collected pertaining to the atrocities it is unlikely that high ranking responsible officials would be able to be tried until after the conflict has ended. Even if it were possible to extradite the responsible individuals while the conflict was going on, would their removal stop violence completely? By it’s nature, it appears that the ICC works as a response. So, in a previous post Professor Tiemessen mentioned that UN Peacekeepers have been given a greater ability to use force when protecting civilians. Would a situation like this benefit from an external international force intervening? Should there be an internationally recognized group authorized to use force in order to stop atrocities?

Boko Haram: Who’s Responsible?

In Nigeria, an Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram has formed in response to the division between Muslims living in the north and Christians in the South. The group’s mission is to purify Nigeria of any western influences and execute this mission through extreme violence. Boko Haram has targeted schools most widely known as #bringbackourgirls, official buildings, and prisons, which in response has triggered the government’s military to intervene. But, the government’s actions in response to these violent attacks suggest that the government may be collaborating with the terrorist group. Looking ahead to when the people behind the atrocities are found out, it will be interesting whether the Nigerian government’s and military leadership will be charged with the war crimes, similar to a Mladic situation. Additionally, if the government is behind the atrocities, they could be considered to the degree of a genocidal movement manipulated by political elites.

Can the ICC Prosecute Boko Haram?

August of last year Boko Haram, a terrorist organization based in northeastern Nigeria, made headlines when the International Criminal Court (ICC) reported that there was reason to believe that the group had committed crimes against humanity. According to a UN News Centre article at the time, the report detailed that the group had launched systematic attacks that resulted in the death of over 1,200 Christian and Muslim civilians since July 2009. More recently, on March 2nd, Boko Haram killed at least 90 people in two separate bomb attacks in northern Nigeria. Last month, according International Christian Concern and Associated Press, Boko Haram attacked a secondary school that left approximately 100 people dead.

Boko Haram’s indiscriminate attacks towards civilians leave little room for debate; the group should be tried for crimes against humanity. As a part to the Rome Statue, the ICC has the right to investigate the group, as well as the allegations that the government has not done enough to prevent the attacks.

AP Photo/Jossy Ola

AP Photo/Jossy Ola

The challenge lies, however, in Boko Haram’s decentralized command structure which makes identifying perpetrators extremely challenging. The leadership of group lies with a 30-person Shura council, with each member overseeing the activity of a cell of militants focused on a particular geographic areas. Members outside of the Shura council are generally unaware of the operations of other cells. As such, cells can operate independently from the concerns and vulnerabilities of other cells. Details on its leadership structure are scarce and a continued source of frustration for investigators.

The secretive and cell-like structure of the organization are clearly designed to avoid compromising the organization if a member or cell is captured. The group’s focus on local grievances, its decentralized structure, and secretive nature make the possibility of prosecution, let alone peace negotiations, seem unlikely. In such a situation, the ICC will need to create new and innovative ways to gather evidence in order to indicted Boko Haram’s worst perpetrators. What may be even more concerning, however, is how dependent the ICC’s success at indicting such perpetrators may be linked to the government’s ability to end the group’s activity.

Homophobia as a crime against humanity

In a historic move for international law, a US judge ruled in August that a prominent American evangelist can be tried for crimes against humanity due to his advocacy for the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill. Scott Lively has admitted to influencing the Ugandan bill as well as Russia’s more-recent “gay propaganda” law and has argued that homosexuals are to blame for Nazi atrocities. The ruling is new for international law because it defines LGBTQ individuals as a class against which discrimination and unfair treatment is not acceptable.

In his humorous take on global homophobia, Jon Stewart references the seemingly common news of homophobia coming out of Africa. Beyond the Ugandan law, Nigeria recently passed a law that makes most interactions between gay people criminal, a majority of African countries have outlawed homosexuality, and Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, recently went head-to-head with President Obama over the issue (In French, English coverage here).

While Africa’s problems with LGBTQ people haven’t won the region many allies in the West, Sall’s comments reflect a commonly-held belief that acceptance of homosexuality would be an unwelcome Western import. But if, in a few years or decade, acceptance of homosexuality became a new international norm, would leader like Sall in Senegal, Jonathan in Nigeria, and Putin in Russia be at risk of prosecution?

ICC will try Boko Haram, if necessary

In what appears to be a very brief summary of a report leaked from the office of ICC prosecutor Bensouda, VOA News is reporting that the ICC “Suspects Boko Haram of Crimes Against Humanity.”  Assuming this is true, the ICC will be threatening Nigerian officials with intervention unless the government prosecutes the crimes that have killed thousands of Christians and Muslims.

While it is good news for the international justice front that the ICC is acknowledging these crimes and seems ready to prosecute them, if necessary, they do not yet recognize the government’s role in any killings: “the report said there is no indication that those alleged acts were part of a ‘state or organizational policy to attack the civilian population'”.  Regardless of what authority prosecutes these crimes, the trials will be closely watched for evidence of one-sided justice prevailing, as it has so many times in the past.

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.