by Göran Sluiter
Today, 15 December 2014, it is announced that a further petition will be filed on short notice with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. The petition calls for the criminal investigation and ultimate prosecution of General Muhammadu Buhari – the All Progressive Congress party candidate in the 2015 Nigerian presidential elections.
Buhari is suspected of having committed crimes against humanity through the instigation of post election violence in 2011 in which more than 800 innocent Nigerians died and countless churches and schools in the northern parts of the country were destroyed. On April 16, 2011, during one of Buhari’s campaign rallies he -and some C.P.C Political/ party stalwarts- called upon his party supporters and loyalists “to destroy, kill and maim men, women, and children” who were opposed to his candidature.
A petition was originally filed with the ICC in the aftermath of the 2011 atrocities by the non-sectarian Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice (NCDJ). However, as Buhari, a former military ruler, has now formally launched a fresh attempt to return to power in the February elections, a decision has been made to supplement the 2011 petition with additional facts and legal analysis, and a renewed request for the ICC Prosecutor to urgently launch criminal investigations due to mounting concerns that Nigeria may again witness the killing and bloodshed of innocent civilians.
This announced supplemental petition is particularly timely, as the ICC Prosecutor has recently withdrawn the charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The latter – the first sitting head of state to appear in front of the Court – faced five accounts of crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating violence in a disputed presidential election that killed thousands of Kenyans seven years ago.
This withdrawal highlights the ICC’s difficulties in bringing to justice the high-ranking officials it has accused of atrocities. Though the 2011 petition and the supplemental petition are filed by the NCDJ they represent the aspirations of all Nigerians who demand that Nigerian politicians, of all political parties and all faiths, refrain from hateful and sectarian rhetoric.
The NCDJ believes Nigeria has come too far in its path towards democracy to fall prey, once again, to power-hungry individuals seeking to tear the country apart. With the petition with the ICC Prosecutor the NCDJ wants to bring all Nigerians together and ensure that the atrocities committed in 2011 are not repeated. All Nigerians deserve peaceful, free and fair elections.
NCDJ, established in 1998, is an amalgamation of several non-governmental and civil society organizations with the aim of promoting democracy, social justice and the rule of law in the North of Nigeria and in the nation generally. On 1 December 2014 NCDJ appointed Prof. Göran Sluiter -lawyer at Prakken D’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers, in Amsterdam, and Professor in international criminal law at the University of Amsterdam- to supplement the Petition against General Buhari originally brought on the 12th. May 2011 before the International Criminal Court of Justice (The Hague) for, among others, crimes against humanity.
The underlying criminal acts, supported by evidence in the supplemental petition, include: murder, torture, rape, and the burning of property and people. These acts of wanton inhumanity were systematically directed at: non-Muslims; liberal Muslims; perceived non-supporters of General Buhari and the CPC; young university graduates in the compulsory national Youth Service Corps scheme; and people – either Christian or liberal Muslims – from Southern Nigeria.
The locus where these crimes against humanity were carried out are the following states in northern Nigeria: Adamawa, Bauchi, Bornu, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Niger.
General Buhari made instigating statements on local television, on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (Hausa service) and on the Voice of America (VOA) (Hausa Service) on 16 April 2011, claiming that he had evidence that aircraft had been conveying ballot papers meant for rigging the elections to predetermined locations, including his home State, Katsina. This led directly to the first attacks on churches and property in Katsina on Sunday morning, 17 th April 2011.
General Buhari then made inciting statements at rallies in the course of the political campaign, urging his supporters to “lynch and roast alive” anyone perceived to have “rigged” the elections in 2011.
Human Rights Watch, an international human rights NGO, concluded that more than 800 people were killed in the post-election violence in 2011.
Lawyer for the NCDJ, Prof. Sluiter, will file the supplemental petition shortly and will maintain contact with the ICC’s Prosecutor, calling for urgent and expeditious criminal investigations.