Mr Karim A.A. Khan QC, ICC Prosecutor
This week I conducted my first official visit to Nigeria, on the invitation of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
I wish to thank the Nigerian authorities for hosting me and my delegation, and for their expressed commitment to ensuring justice for Rome Statute crimes in partnership with the International Criminal Court. My message was clear: accountability for atrocity crimes is essential. Impunity cannot be an option, and my Office will continue to fulfil its statutory obligations in relation to the situation in Nigeria, in cooperation with relevant national authorities.
This visit was driven by the need to continue my Office’s engagement with the Nigerian authorities and clarify the status of the situation in Nigeria following the conclusion of its preliminary examination by my predecessor in December 2020.
During my visit I was pleased to meet with their Excellencies Mr Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federation, Prof. Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, Vice President of the Federation, Hon. Geoffrey Jideofor Kwusike Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Benjamin Ogu Okolo, Acting Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice in the absence of Hon. Abubakar Malami SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
In these discussions, I recalled that the legal criteria to open an investigation into the Situation in Nigeria were met in relation to allegations of crimes committed in the course of the non-international armed conflict between the Nigerian security forces and Boko Haram. We were in agreement that the principle of complementarity enshrined in the Rome Statue required such crimes to be addressed through domestic proceedings, or failing that, by my Office. We explored in this context different avenues to close the impunity gap and deliver on the legitimate expectations of justice from victims and survivors on all sides.
We also discussed ways in which crimes committed by non-State armed groups associated with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”), Al-Qaida, including Boko Haram, could be effectively addressed through joint efforts by the numerous affected States within the regions of West Africa, the Sahel and beyond. It is clear that the actions of such entities do not respect geographic borders. International cooperation, collective action are therefore essential in ensuring those responsible for atrocities are held to account in accordance with the rule of law.
During my visit I have furthermore shared with the Nigerian authorities my vision on the role regional organisations such as ECOWAS and the African Union could play in the global fight against impunity for serious international crimes in partnership with my Office.
In all discussions, I reminded Nigerian authorities of their legal obligations under the Rome Statute to conduct effective, genuine and meaningful national investigations and prosecutions with respect to the potential cases identified by my Office, particularly in relation to members of the Nigerian security forces. I have pledged in this regard to provide Nigerian judicial authorities with the necessary technical assistance and knowledge transfer within the available means of my Office. As I have repeatedly stated, the meaningful realisation of the vision set out in the Statute can only be achieved by deepening cooperation and by finding common ground wherever possible, even in difficult circumstances. I will therefore continue to look for ways and means to engage in dialogue to promote complementarity, whether at the current threshold where we stand or in the context of an opened situation.
We have furthermore agreed with Nigerian authorities on the next immediate steps to inform any future decision I will be making on the situation. I have proposed clear timelines in this respect and welcome Nigeria’s commitment to conclude a formal agreement with my Office on these issues in the near future.
I trust that this visit opens a new chapter of enhanced collaboration and cooperation between Nigeria and my Office that will serve the interests of the victims of alleged crimes committed in Nigeria and beyond. After over a decade of communications and exchanges between my Office and Nigerian authorities we need to now move with urgency to deliver on our joint commitments to justice and translate these into concrete actions.