The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) is conducting an analysis of Jos over potential crimes against humanity, the Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, has said in a letter sent last week to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The decision by the ICC to launch an examination of the violence that erupted in Jos last year followed a petition filed by SERAP to Mr Ocampo’s office. The petition requested Ocampo to use his position “to investigate proprio motu allegations of unlawful killing of at least 326 people and perpetration of other crimes under international law during the violence in January 2010 in Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria; and the reports that the military and police used excessive force against both Christians and Muslims in responding to the violence.”
In the letter with reference number OTP-CR-58/10, dated 5 November 2010, and signed on behalf of Mr Ocampo by M.P. Dillon, Head of Information and Evidence Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor, the ICC said that, “On behalf of the Prosecutor, I thank you for your communication received on 01/02/2010, as well as any subsequent related information. The Office is analyzing the situation identified in your communication, with the assistance of other related communications and other available information.
Under Article 53 of the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor must consider whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed, the gravity of the crimes, whether national systems are investigating and prosecuting the relevant crimes, and the interests of justice. Analysis will be carried out as expeditiously as possible, but please be aware that meaningful analysis of these factors can take some time.”
Reacting to the development, SERAP’s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana who had sent the petition to the ICC on behalf of the group, said that, “This is fantastic news for the victims of the unlawful killing and other abuses that took place in Jos earlier this year, and previous outbreaks of deadly violence in the city. It is also good news for international justice especially given the persistent lack of political will by the Nigerian government to address the problem.
The intervention by the ICC in this case is absolutely important as the ICC can once and
for all address the responsibility of those who instigated the violence in Jos. Ending impunity for the cycle of violence in many parts of Nigeria is essential for sustainable peace, stability and security, and for the country’s social, economic and political development.”
In its petition dated 29 January, 2010, the group had stated that, “Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and deposited its instrument of ratification on 27 September 2001.”
SERAP also said that, “the Plateau State Police Command said that at least 326 people were killed during the violence. Tens of thousands are displaced, and denied access to humanitarian assistance and basic necessities of life such as food and medical care. Many have not been assisted to return to their homes and land, or provided with alternative accommodation.”
“The latest violation of international law in Jos is coming just after the apparently unlawful killings of more than 700 people that followed the Boko Haram crisis last year. Inter-communal, political, and sectarian violence have claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people, including women and children, during the past 10 years,” SERAP added.
SERAP also said that, “Those who are suspected to be responsible for the latest violence and previous outbreaks of deadly violence in Jos have not been arrested let alone brought to justice because the government has shown itself to be too weak to act, contrary to its international legal obligations, including under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The government usually response to outbreaks of violence in many parts of the country by setting up commissions of inquiry, but few of them have ever published their reports, and even when they have, their recommendations have rarely been acted upon or led to prosecutions.”
The group also argued that, “In effect, the government has shown itself unwilling or unable to transparently and effectively investigate and prosecute allegations of crimes under international law committed in the context of the outbreaks of violence in Nigeria, including the latest violence in Jos.
This situation amounts to a denial of the victims’ access to a fair, effective and prompt system of justice. The denial of justice to the victims of violence also 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 genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
“We are concerned that a cycle of violence has had a deleterious effect on development and has been a core source of instability and insecurity in many parts of Nigeria. The vicious cycle of violence in many parts of the country is breeding impunity of perpetrators, with the Nigerian government unwilling or unable to bring suspected perpetrators to justice. The crimes committed against the Nigerian people in Jos could amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the ICC, which fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC,” the group further argued.
The group said that, “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.”