[JURIST] The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] has reason to believe [press release] that, based upon the findings of a preliminary investigation, crimes against humanity have been committed in Nigeria by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram [BBC backgrounder]. In a report issued Monday, Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda [official profile] wrote:
Information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that since July 2009 Boko Haram has launched a widespread and systematic attack that has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 Christian and Muslim civilians in different locations throughout Nigeria.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan [JURIST news archive] declared a state of emergency in May to combat the threat posed by Boko Haram. Thousands of people in north-eastern Nigeria have been uprooted in the conflict, with more than 6,000 fleeing to Niger for safety, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported in June.
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 in 2011. In January 2012 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.