Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an urgent request to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda, urging her to “use your good offices and position to facilitate the visit of the court to Baga in Borno State of Nigeria and other parts of the country in order for the court to assess the situation, interview important witnesses and collect vital evidence that can be used to bring suspected perpetrators to justice for international crimes.”In the request dated 3 May 2013 and signed by Solicitor to SERAP Femi Falana, SAN, the organization expressed “serious concerns about the killings and destruction in Baga and cases of extrajudicial executions in other parts of the country. 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.
The organization also stated that, “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. 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.”
According to the organization, “given the weak criminal justice system and the fact that successive governments have shown themselves to be either unwilling or unable to implement recommendations by national agencies let alone prosecute suspected perpetrators of international crimes in places like Jos, 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.
According to the organization, “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.”
“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 have come out with contradictory reports on the civilian casualty in Baga. While about 200 people are reportedly killed last month 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,” the organization stated.
The organization also said that, “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,” the organization added.
According to the organization, “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.”
The organization therefore urged the prosecutor to:
*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.
*Invite representatives of the Nigerian government to provide written or oral testimony at the seat of the Court,
Bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for crimes under international law in Baga and extrajudicial executions in other parts of Nigeria.
*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.
*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.