Fatou Bensouda said she briefed President Goodluck Jonathan on the ICC’s preliminary examination of the Boko Haram insurgency, but stressed that the court is not formally investigating the violence in northern Nigeria.
“Crimes are taking place,” the Gambian-born prosecutor told journalists. “These crimes may be called terrorists attacks but they could also qualify as crimes against humanity.”
Provided Nigeria takes action through its own judicial system, the ICC does not plan to intervene, she said.
“The intention is not to intervene, but the intention is to ensure that Nigeria has the primary responsibility of investigating.”
The radical Islamist group has claimed attacks that have killed more than 1,000 people since mid-2009 and the violence has escalated in recent months.
Following the group’s deadliest-ever attack in which at least 185 people were killed in the city of Kano on January 20, Jonathan encouraged Boko Haram to enter into negotiations.
But Jonathan told the ICC prosecutor that his government will not encourage impunity for major crimes, according to a presidency statement.
The ICC has for several years also been monitoring inter-communal violence in Nigeria’s so-called “Middle Belt,” which roughly divides the mainly Christian south from the predominantly Muslim north in Africa’s most populous country.
Bensouda became the ICC’s chief prosecutor on June 15, replacing Luis Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentian, who was repeatedly criticised by some African leaders for what they termed the court’s excessive focus on African conflicts.
She told Jonathan that the court in The Hague had not targeted Africa but that its investigations into alleged war crimes committed on the continent were in the interest of the African victims, the presidency statement said.