► ‘Crime against peace’ is related to the planning, preparation, initiation, waging or participation in a common plan or conspiracy related to a war of aggression. It is considered applicable only in the context of international armed conflict and would usually be committed by individuals in a high position of authority, representing a State or a State-like entity.
► ‘War crimes’ are serious violations of international humanitarian law, committed against a protected person or object (civilians, combatants placed out of combat, such as in detention or being wounded, or those who have put down their arms, or civilian and cultural objects) or through the use of unlawful weapons or means of warfare.
They can be committed by combatants/fighters, as well as civilians, as long as there is a sufficient link to the armed conflict. This means that the act needs to have been ‘closely’ related to the armed conflict.
The nature of the armed conflict (international or non-international) is decisive in order to define the elements of the particular war crime.
It should be underlined that combatants that lawfully take part in hostilities are not committing war crimes, as long as they follow the rules provided for by international humanitarian law.
► ‘Crimes against humanity’ are fundamentally inhumane acts, committed as part of a systematic or widespread attack against any civilian population. Inhumane acts which could reach this threshold when committed pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organisational policy, include: murder, extermination, enslavement; deportation or forcible transfer of population; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; torture; rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, or other grounds that are universally recognised as impermissible under international law; enforced disappearance of persons; apartheid; other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.
Crimes against humanity can be committed in peace time as well as during an armed conflict. Even a single act could fall under this exclusion ground provided it forms part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population and the act is committed by someone who had knowledge of the attack and the link of the act to the attack.
Analysis on the applicability of Article 12(2)(a) and Article 17(1)(a) QD:
It can be noted that the ground ‘crime against peace’ is not found to be of particular relevance in the cases of applicants from Nigeria.
Serious breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law are reported in relation to the armed conflict involving the NAF, MNJTF, CJTF, and Boko Haram and aligned factions in the North East [Targeting, 2.1.3, 2.5.1].
NAF has been accused of extrajudicial executions, mass deaths in custody, torture, sexual abuse and violence against IDP women, fumigation, unlawful detention and arrest, and starvation of over 8 000 people caused by the closure of roads [Targeting, 2.5.1].
Several sources indicate that the CJTF has also committed crimes, such as extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, acts of torture, and severe abuses of IDP women, including physical and sexual violence, recruitment of children [Targeting, 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206, 3.13.4].
According to OHCHR, the human rights violations committed by Boko Haram amount to breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including:
The Office of the Prosecutor of ICC is currently investigating violations committed in the conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces as potential ‘war crimes’. Furthermore, some crimes committed in particular by Boko Haram, could be found excludable under Article 12(2)(a)/Article 17(1)(a) QD as ‘crimes against humanity’; or under Article 12(2)(b)/ Article 17(1)(b) QD in relation to serious (non-political) crimes.
In the Middle Belt and in the East of Nigeria the violent clashes between herders and farmers have escalated in recent years, resulting in increasing numbers of deaths on both sides and serious human rights violations, including rape, abduction and attacks leading to the destruction of entire villages. The conflict has also had a considerable humanitarian impact, including the destruction of cattle, crops, and farmland [Targeting, 3.7.1, 3.7.2]. Taking into account the evolution of the conflict, crimes committed in this context could be assessed under Article 12(2)(a)/Article 17(1)(a) QD as ‘crimes against humanity’; and/or under Article 12(2)(b)/ Article 17(1)(b) QD in relation to serious (non-political) crimes.
The actions of the Nigerian security forces against IMN, including reports of mass killings and burials, should also be taken into account [Targeting, 2.5.1]. These are currently under investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of ICC.