Amnesty International has said that it has sufficient evidence to sue five senior officers in the Nigeria Army at the International Criminal Court for war crimes in the battle against Boko Haram, even as the military reacted with anger, rejecting the charge.
The Amnesty, in a new 133-page report it compiled, based on hundreds of interviews, including with military sources, and using leaked defence ministry documents said that the reports were centred on thousands of people that were extra-judicially murdered by the security forces and its civilian vigilante allies, as well as crimes against those held in military custody.
Amnesty’s secretary general Salil Shetty described the abuses as “sickening” but Nigeria’s military hit back, saying that the report was designed to besmirch its reputation.
“In the course of security operations against Boko Haram in north-east Nigeria, Nigerian military forces have extrajudicially executed more than 1,200 people; they have arbitrarily arrested at least 20,000 people, mostly young men and boys,” the report said.
Nigerian forces “have committed countless acts of torture; hundreds, if not thousands, of Nigerians have become victims of enforced disappearance; and at least 7,000 people have died in military detention as a result of starvation, extreme overcrowding and denial of medical assistance”, it added.
Amnesty said commanders based in the northeast “should be investigated for potential responsibility for war crimes of murder, enforced disappearances and torture”.
Top service chiefs in the capital Abuja “should be investigated for their potential command responsibility for crimes committed by their subordinates given that they knew or should have known about the commission of the crimes, and failed to take adequate action”.
The ICC in The Hague has previously opened a preliminary investigation into the Boko Haram conflict, which Amnesty said has killed at least 17,000 people since 2009.
The tribunal has however stated there was insufficient evidence tying Nigeria’s military to systematic and orchestrated atrocities targeting civilians.
But the report said: “Amnesty International believes that the evidence contained in this report and submitted separately to the (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor is sufficient to reopen this issue.