Nigeria and Amnesty International - what's next?

Like Amnesty report on Nigerian military war crimes
Monday, June 8, 2015 - 14:30

By Niklas Jakobsson

It seems to happen every week. An organisation collects material, writes a report and person X is being dragged in front of the International Criminal Court. If you’ve been following the Amnesty report on violations in Nigeria, you might think that last week was no different. But maybe we need to think again?

The ICC has been conducting investigations into war crimes in Nigeria for several years. But the Court, in traditional fashion, is holding its cards close to the chest. So could this new report by Amnesty provide additional information for the Office of the Prosecutor to include in its current investigation?

Heinous crimes by Boko Haram are regularly put on the front pages of news publications around the world. Less so are alleged crimes by the Nigerian government. With the Amnesty report came calls for senior Nigerian officials to be investigated for alleged war crimes.

One of the early topics discussed on social media was if or when the ICC would get their hands on the report. But it soon became clear that Amnesty had already sent it to the prosecution.

But as we all know, sending documents to the ICC is done on a regular basis and often very little, if anything, comes out of these submissions. So will this time be any different?

While we might not get an answer pertaining to any details of the ongoing ICC investigation into Nigeria, the prosecution has a habit of sending out statements regarding situations or investigations that are put on the news agenda for one reason or another. So are we in for another video release, with a statement from chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda?

Headlines about the Amnesty report were found across the online media landscape. But – like so many times before – the headlines didn’t match the content. The general trend of misinformed headlines about the Court doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Not only does it give information which is inaccurate, it raises false expectations about what the Court can do and is doing.

It’s too early to tell whether the Amnesty submission to the ICC will have any impact on their current or future investigations. While this might not be the case for this submission, the Court’s open policy of sending documents seems to create more headaches for the Court than it does good. Raised and false expectations stemming from the misinterpretation of what the Court can do means the prosecution is fighting a headwind right from the start. But then again, the Court can’t stop taking these submission because the criticism would be immense. So in some ways, it’s a lose-lose situation.

So…

  • How should the ICC deal with unrealistic expectations of what it can do?
  • Do you think the Court will react publically to the Amnesty submission?
  • What do you believe are the main reasons for people’s misinterpretations of what the ICC can do?

Lead image: Dr. Meddy is a cartoonist who works for Cartoon Movement. 

The Weekly Hubble features the most popular or controversial international justice story of the past week and reactions on social media to the news.

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