The term ‘Non-international Armed Conflict’ falls under the ambit of International Humanitarian Law. As widely known, International Humanitarian Law means international rules established by treaties or customs, which limits the rights of parties to a conflict to use the methods or means of warfare of their choice, or which protect states not party to a conflict or persons or objects that are may be affected by the conflict.
This Law is made up of the Geneva Conventions (GC) of 1949 and their Additional Protocols, and Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and applies to both International Armed Conflict and Non International Armed Conflict.
While International Armed Conflict involves conflict between at least 2 states, Non International Armed Conflict which is the focal point of this work, are conflicts restricted to the territory of a single state, involving either regular armed forces fighting group of armed dissidents, or armed groups fighting each other.
Boko Haram, an Islamic sect, is a lucid illustration due to the number of atrocities that has been committed by the group since their emergence in 2008. It is written in Human Rights Watch that since 2009, there have been about 6,000 civilian deaths, destruction of 200 schools in Borno alone and more than 500 women and girls have been abducted from the North East over which 100 has escaped, rescued by security forces or were released by them. Although, the activities of this sect have extended to neighboring countries, most of its attacks are in Nigeria.
In the beginning, International Humanitarian Law did not recognise internal conflict and were not applicable to their effect. But as time went by and owing to the deafening crescendo of internal conflicts within a state, amendments to its original conventions became inevitable. Thus, in 1974-1977, the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law met in Geneva and adopted two Additional Protocols to the 1949 convention which were meant to compliment the pre-existing conventions and to override them.
While Protocol I provides for the protection of victims in an international conflict, Protocol II particularly deals with victims of internal conflict, including those between the armed forces of a government and dissidents or other organized groups which control parts of its territory, but does not deal with disturbances and tensions in the form of riots, or other isolated and sporadic acts of violence. Similarly, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention 1949 provides same.
For an internal conflict to suffice as Non International Armed Conflict (hereinafter referred to as NIAC), the level of armed violence must reach a certain degree of intensity that goes beyond internal disturbances and tensions, and at least one side to the conflict must be a non- state armed group that exhibits a certain level of organization. In the light of the foregoing, one can thoroughly examine the activities of Boko Haram as NIAC, on the premise of the series of killings by this group, abduction of women and children including raping some of them, as well as destruction of schools and homes, displacing a few. In some of the ravaged communities, a flag has been put up to be designated as a Boko Haram territory.
These acts has surpassed the level of being described as mere riots and has attracted the attention of the international community. Furthermore, the government addresses them as insurgents following their allegiance to Al Qaeda and ISIS and has deployed military operations against them which would not have been needed if it were to be a riot. In addition, it is a non- state armed group fighting against the state and it has a structure of leadership hierarchy which shows organization.
At its inception, Mohammed Yusuf was its leader and was succeeded by Abubakar Shekau after he was killed in 2009. In recent times, they announced a change of leadership and made demands for the release of their members that are in captivity in exchange for Chibok Girls that were kidnapped in 2014. As a confirmation, it was stressed by Dr Chiara Pedaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy, that the activities perpetrated by Boko Haram has met the criteria of being described as NIAC in spite of the intervention offered by the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in 2015. Nevertheless, it is worthy of note that recognition of the above activities as NIAC does not confer a legitimate status but it serves as a need for the government, NGOs and humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross to disseminate its rules so as to be respected and implemented which in turn will save humanity.
In conclusion, NIAC mainly focuses on internal conflicts and gives access for International Humanitarian Law to come into play. With regards to the criteria enumerated above, it can be seen that one can rightly classify Boko Haram activities as NIAC owing to the fact that it is committed within a state which is Nigeria and its activities has gone over the fence of being a mere disturbance and tension. As a result of this, it is extremely important that the state and individuals intensify their efforts to disseminate and educate the citizens so that appropriate action could be taken in peace time.
Hagler Okorie, ‘Violation of International Humanitarian Law by Parties to the Armed Conflict in North East’ (International Journal of Business & Law Research, 2018) (Vol.6)
Ladan, M.T, ‘Materials and cases on International Law’ (A.B.U Press Zaria,2007)P.200
ICRC, ‘Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law’ (2004)
Human Rights Watch, ‘Abuses by Boko Haram, Conduct of Security Forces, International Political Violence’ World Report from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016 accessed 27th June 2019
Geneva Academy, ‘Nigeria: A Non- International Armed Conflict Involving Boko Haram And Troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria’ from www.geneva-academy.com