Nigeria Says War-Crimes Probe Hampers Fight Against Insurgents

Nigeria’s government condemned the International Criminal Court for recommending a full investigation into possible war crimes by the nation’s security forces.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said last month a preliminary probe concluded that there is “a reasonable basis to believe” members of the Boko Haram militant group and security forces from the West African country committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Judges at the Hague-based tribunal must approve her request in order for it to proceed.

The ICC is acting like “another ‘fighting force’ against Nigeria, constantly harassing our security forces and threatening them with investigation and possible prosecution,” Information Minister Lai Mohammed said in a statement emailed Jan. 4. Bensouda’s actions are an “unbridled attempt to demoralize our security men and women as they confront the onslaught from bandits and terrorists,” he said.

Boko Haram insurgents have waged a violent campaign in northeastern Nigeria since 2009 to impose the group’s version of Islamic law on Africa’s biggest oil producer, leaving thousands of people dead and millions displaced. The ICC opened its preliminary investigation a decade ago.

The probe found that, while the Islamist group and its splinter organizations are responsible for the “vast majority of criminality,” allegations against Nigerian security forces are “also sufficiently grave to warrant investigation,” according to a Dec. 11 statement from Bensouda’s office.

“Nigeria did not join the ICC so it can become a pawn on the court’s chessboard,” Mohammed said. “It beggars belief to see that a nation that is fighting an existential war against bandits and terrorists is constantly being held down by an international body which it willingly joined.”

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