Nigeria War Crimes Probe May Advance After Decade of Checks

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will ask for permission to open a full investigation into possible war crimes in Nigeria.

Fatou Bensouda’s office has concluded a preliminary probe that found there is “a reasonable basis to believe” members of the Boko Haram militant group and the Nigerian security forces have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to a statement. Judges of The Hague-based tribunal will need to approve the prosecutor’s request.

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

While the Islamist group and its splinter organizations are responsible for the “vast majority of criminality,” allegations against the Nigerian security forces are “also sufficiently grave to warrant investigation by my office,” Bensouda said in the statement published Friday.

A spokesman for the Nigerian army didn’t immediately respond to calls and messages seeking comment.

Efforts by the Nigerian judicial system to tackle the alleged crimes have failed to target “the forms of conduct or categories of persons” that will likely be of interest to a full ICC investigation, according to the statement.

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