NAN – The International Criminal Court, ICC, has started the process of investigating human rights abuses by the Nigerian military.
The Netherlands-based court will also investigate abuses by Boko Haram, the terror group whose activities have caused the death of about 20,000 people in Nigeria since 2009.
The military has been accused of illegal killings and incarceration by local and international groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
However, on Wednesday, the Nigerian government expressed commitment to upholding the highest standards of human rights in the conduct of all international affairs including counter insurgency operations in the country.
The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, made the pledge when he received a delegation from the office of Madame Fatou Bensouda, the ICC Prosecutor.
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Salihu Isah, the minister assured the delegation that Nigeria had high value for its relationship with the ICC.
Mr. Malami said that the Nigerian Army has conducted its operations in the North East region of the country in a highly professional manner, imbibing best practices in the areas of international human rights.
He also said that he was aware of the eight case files opened against Nigeria by the ICC which the prosecutor intended to investigate in her next stage of assessment of the Nigeria situation.
According to him, six of the alleged cases were committed by the Boko Haram sect while the remaining two are by the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The minister insisted that Nigeria had the prerogative rights in handling the alleged crimes referred to in the prosecutor’s 2015 report of activities in the country.
“Let me reiterate that Nigeria retains the sovereign capacity to investigate and punish the alleged crimes referred to in the report and will therefore continue present efforts in the above direction.”
He further added that the government was committed to ensuring that troops were guided by the rules of engagement, promising that any infractions would be severely dealt with.
He solicited the support and understanding of ICC and the international community especially in regards to the conduct of the affairs of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Responding, the leader of delegation, Phakiso Choko, said that the prosecutor did not intend to compromise the sovereign rights of Nigeria in investigating crimes and meting out punishment.
He said that most cases referred to the ICC were the ones host nations were unable to resolve through internal mechanism.
The prosecutor, through the delegation, expressed support and willingness to work with Nigeria in addressing all identified crimes and criminality against humanity.