The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] has accused a group of Islamist radicals of committing crimes against humanity in Nigeria. According to the OTP's 2012 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities [text, PDF], there is a reasonable basis to conclude that Boko Haram [BBC backgrounder], an Islamist militant group that endeavors to create an Islamic state, has violated several provisions under Article 7 of the Rome Statute [text] since launching a widespread attack in July 2009 that has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 Christian and Muslim civilians throughout Nigeria. In particular, Boko Haram has allegedly committed crimes of against humanity under Article 7's provisions related to murder and persecution. The Prosecutor also found that the attacks have been committed pursuant to the policies of Boko Haram leadership, which seeks to impose an exclusive Islamic government at the expense of Christians. Given the findings, the OTP has advanced the preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria to phase 3, which entails an assessment of whether Nigerian authorities are conducting genuine proceedings as a result of the alleged crimes. The report also noted that there was no reasonable basis to conclude that Niger Delta militants and Nigerian government security forces had also committed crimes against humanity in Nigeria, as alleged [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] last month.
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is a sin," has been fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state and has warned Christians in the mostly Muslim northern regions to leave the area. The group has publicly claimed responsibility for several attacks, including church bombings [AFP report] on December 25 that killed approximately 40 people last year. In January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged Nigerian leaders from all sectors of society to make a concerted effort to stop the sectarian violence [JURIST report]. The Christmas day bombings were internationally condemned, including being labeled as "senseless violence" by the White House and acts of "blind hatred" by the Vatican [AFP reports]. Additionally, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] has previously expressed concern [JURIST report] over acts of ethnic violence by Boko Haram. Specifically, the Office described the group's bombing of a UN building in Nigeria [VOA report] in August 2011 as "cowardly." At least 18 people were killed in the attack.