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ICC prosecutor urges Nigerians to refrain from violence

February 2, 2015

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor on Monday urged all parties in Nigeria’s upcoming election to refrain from violence before, during and after the vote.

In a written statement, Fatou Bensouda said she would send a team to Nigeria before the Feb. 14 election to “further engage with the authorities and encourage the prevention of crimes.”

Prosecutors at the Hague-based court already are conducting a preliminary probe into alleged war crimes committed by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and by Nigerian security forces that could lead to a full-blown investigation.

“Experience has shown that electoral competition, when gone astray, can give rise to violence and in the worst-case scenarios, even trigger the commission of mass crimes that ‘shock the conscience of humanity,’” Bensouda said in her statement.

Boko Haram has declared an Islamic caliphate that now encompasses about 130 towns and villages in a large swath of northeastern Nigeria, according to Amnesty International. The country’s 170 million people are split almost equally between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

Boko Haram has been increasing its attacks as Nigeria prepares for the Feb. 14 elections and its reign of terror has stoked tensions elsewhere.

Last week, youths angry at the Nigerian government’s failure to fight the Islamic extremists threw stones at President Goodluck Jonathan’s electioneering convoy in the eastern town of Jalingo, breaking windshields and windows on several vehicles. Police used tear gas and whips to disperse the mob.

The International Criminal Court has in the past launched major investigations into post-election violence in African nations Ivory Coast and Kenya.

Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo is in jail in The Hague awaiting trial and Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, is standing trial on charges of involvement in election-related killings. Both men insist they are innocent.

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