Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has launched a new Citizens’ Guide to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to encourage Nigerians to report to the commission any reports of corruption whether or not this directly affect them. (more…)
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Prosecutor, International Criminal Court
Po Box 195192500 CM, The Hague
3 May 2013
Dear Ms Fatou Bensouda:
Re: Request to visit Baga (Borno State of Nigeria) to investigate allegations of unlawful killings and destruction of civilian property, and widespread cases of extra-judicial executions
I am writing to you as Solicitor to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), and I have the instructions of my client to send this petition to you to request that you use your good offices and position to urgently facilitate the visit of the International Criminal Court to Baga, Northern Nigeria in order for the court to investigate allegations of the unlawful killings and destruction of civil property, and cases of extra-judicial executions in the country.
We also urge you to bring to justice anyone who ordered and encouraged these international crimes prohibited under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which Nigeria is a state party.
SERAP is a Nigerian based human rights non-governmental organization, and whose mandates include the promotion of respect for internationally recognized human rights of Nigerians, through litigation, research and publications, advocacy and monitoring.
We are seriously concerned that so far those who are responsible for the grave violations of international law have not been identified let alone prosecuted. Worryingly, two government’s initiated probes, (one by Nigeria’s aid agency and the other by Nigerian military) have come out with contradictory reports on the civilian casualty in Baga. While about 200 people are reportedly killed during a clash between insurgents and security officials in Baga, a border town near to Lake Chad, one of the government’s interim reports claimed only six civilians were killed. It also claimed that the bodies were probably not burnt in the inferno, but ‘recovered in Lake Chad.’
However, the other report by the government suggested the existence of 32 fresh graves in two graveyards, and implied that at least 32 people were buried after the incident. Further, while the National Human Rights Commission is currently probing the alleged violations of international law in Baga, we remain concerned that given the antecedents of successive governments to ignore reports and recommendations of national agencies and institutions in situations like this, we are convinced that intervention by the ICC will significantly complement the probe by the commission, as it will bring international pressure to bear on the government to honour any recommendations that might come out of the commission’s findings.
Our request for the intervention by the ICC also goes beyond the situation in Baga, and includes cases of extra-judicial execution that continue to take place in the country. In fact, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke (SAN) revealed at a public event marking the Human Rights Day on December 10, 2012 that the Police alone had killed 7,108 persons in four years.
Additionally, given the weak criminal justice system and the fact that successive governments have shown themselves either unwilling or unable to prosecute suspected perpetrators of international crimes in places like Jos (Plateau State of Nigeria), the intervention by the ICC will ensure that the truth is told about what happened, and provide the much needed international accountability and ensure effective remedies for victims and their families.
SERAP is seriously concerned that unless the ICC urgently visit Baga and other parts of the country to assess the situation, interview witnesses and obtain vital evidence suspected perpetrators may escape justice.
Without accountability for these serious human rights crimes, the victims will continue to be denied access to justice, and impunity of perpetrators will remain widespread and the result will continue to be a vicious cycle of violence and abuses with serious consequences for the entire citizenry.
The denial of justice to victims of serious human rights abuses violates the Security Council (SC) Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security (October 2000), which emphasises the responsibility of all States to put an end to impunity and to prosecute those responsible for international crimes, including crimes against humanity.
The Rome Statute in article 7 defines “crime against humanity” as any of the following acts when committed in a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population: murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation or forcible transfer of population; severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of international law; torture; rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization, or any other grave sexual violence; persecution against any identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender or other grounds; enforced disappearance; apartheid; or other similar inhumane acts causing great suffering or injury.
Under Article 17 of the Rome Statute, the Court is a court of last resort, expected to exercise its jurisdiction only if states themselves are unwilling or unable genuinely to investigate and prosecute international crimes.
Also, pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or states parties refer a situation or if information is provided from other sources such as the information SERAP is providing in this case.
Indeed, the ICC following SERAP’s intervention has already opened investigations on the allegations of unlawful killings in Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria. We urge you to expand the investigation on Jos to cover Baga, and other cases of extrajudicial executions across the country.
Therefore, SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case, especially given the scale of the killings and destruction and the lack of transparency and accountability.
On the basis of the above, SERAP asks you to:
1. Urgently visit Baga and other parts of the country to assess the situation, interview witnesses and collect vital evidence so that the Prosecutor is able to conclude on the basis of available information whether there is a reasonable basis for an investigation, and to submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authorization of an investigation. The visit by the Office of the Prosecutor would also help to obtain additional information on measures being taken by the Nigerian authorities to address violations of international law and provide victims with effective remedies. We also urge you to hold talks during the visit with all stakeholders including the National Human Rights Commission, international organizations and civil society organizations.
2. Invite representatives of the Nigerian government to provide written or oral testimony at the seat of the Court,
3. Bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for crimes under international law in Baga and extrajudicial executions in other parts of Nigeria.
4. Urge the Nigerian government to fulfil its obligations under the Rome Statute to cooperate with the ICC; including complying with your requests to arrest and surrender suspected perpetrators of international crimes, take testimony, and provide other support to the ICC.
While thanking you in advance of your attention, I look forward to continued dialogue on the issues raise in this petition.
Solicitor to SERAP
Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice
Muhammed Adoke, SAN
Federal Ministry of Justice
Shehu Shagari Way,
25 January 2013
Dear Honourable Minister of Justice: (more…)
High Commissioner Navi Pillay
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
(OHCHR) Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
26 February 2013 (more…)