Ahead of the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has asked the International Criminal Court, ICC to “promptly seek authorisation from the ICC Chamber to commence an investigation into electoral incidences in the country.
The ICC investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.
The appeal is coming on the heels of pre-election violence in the country, as the group worries that all may not be well after the 2023 General Elections if the situation is not averted.
In a statement signed on Sunday by Kolawole Oluwadare, Deputy Director of the organisation, the group in a petition dated dated 11 February, 2023, to ICC, wants the international court to commence investigation into the situation in Nigeria in relation to the growing cases of pre-election violence, which if not addressed may escalate and lead to post-election violence in the country.
The petition dated 11 February, 2023 was sent to Mr. Karim Khan, QC, Prosecutor, of the ICC.
The organisation urged Mr. Khan to “urgently send the ICC legal team to Nigeria to promote free and fair elections in the country, and gather potential proof of election-related violence before, during and after the general elections.”
The petition was necessitated following reports of election-related violence in several states including Lagos, Rivers, and Kaduna states.
Meanwhile, over 4,000 cases of violent attacks and 11,000 fatalities were reported across the country between 1 January 2022 and 3 February 2023 alone.
According to SERAP: “These cases reflect the gravest election-related crimes in several states ahead of the general elections.”
SERAP said, “Based on these cases and other similar cases and trends of election violence, we believe that opening an investigation into the situation in Nigeria will be in the interests of justice.”
The petition, read in part: “SERAP urges you to seek authorisation from the ICC Chamber to commence an investigation into the situation in Nigeria in relation to election-related violence that may be committed during and after the elections scheduled for February and March 2023.
“SERAP also urges you to identify the suspected perpetrators of election-related violence and those individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for encouraging or facilitating these crimes, and to ensure their effective prosecution by the ICC.”
“These are not isolated acts, but part of growing cases of election violence, thus constituting crimes against humanity.”
“Seeking authorisation from the ICC Chamber to commence an investigation in relation to election-related violence that may be committed after the general elections is consistent with Article 53(1)(a) of the Rome Statute which allows investigation into ‘a crime which has been or is being committed.’”
“SERAP notes that the Prosecutor has consistently relied on the provisions of Article 15 of the Rome Statute and Regulation 49 of the ICC to investigate cases of election-related violence in other countries, including Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya.”
“The requested investigation is neither frivolous nor politically motivated. Cases of election-related violence are rarely investigated by the Nigerian authorities. Nigerian authorities are unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution.”
“As a result, suspected perpetrators and those who encourage or facilitate their crimes continue to enjoy impunity. Victims continue to be denied access to justice and effective remedies.”
“The escalating cases of election-related violence in Nigeria meet the requirements of the Rome Statute and provide reasonable basis for you to promptly commence an investigation, particularly given the gravity of these cases and the interests of victims.”
“The test of ‘reasonable basis to believe’ is the lowest evidential standard provided by the Rome Statute. Thus, the information available to the Prosecutor to make a request for investigation is not expected to be ‘comprehensive’ or ‘conclusive’.”
“It is necessary to ensure that any request for authorisation covers investigation into ongoing and continuing election-related crimes during and after the elections, especially given the volatile political environment in the country and the entrenched impunity for these crimes.”
“The incidents of election-related violence strike at the integrity of the democratic process in the country, and undermine the right of Nigerians to participate in their own government.”
“Victims have been let down when it has come to the prevention and prosecution of these offences, largely because they are regarded as an accepted concomitant of elections in the country.”
“The available information provides a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court are being committed and may be committed across the country ahead of the elections.”
“Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute and deposited its instrument of ratification on 27 September 2001.”
“According to our information, opposition supporters are routinely targeted, attacked, beaten and ill-treated and subjected to other physical abuse. Violent attacks against political opponents or persons perceived to support the political opponents continue to be reported.”
“According to the Nigeria Election Violence Tracker by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD), there were over 4,000 cases of violent attacks and 11,000 fatalities between 1 January 2022 and 3 February 2023 alone.”
“State governors continue to suppress campaigns by opposition parties within their states, and fail to ensure the security and public safety of opposition candidates, members and supporters.”
“These cases followed other growing reports of election-related intimidation, harassment and violence in several parts of the country including Abia, Lagos, Imo, Kaduna, Kano and Rivers states.”
“Nigeria has a long history of election-related violence. Dozens of people were killed during the 2019 general election. In 2011, hundreds of people were killed in post-election violence.”
“Under Article 15(1) of the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor may initiate investigations proprio motu on the basis of information on crimes that are within the jurisdiction of the Court.”
“In accordance with Article 15(3) of the Statute, if the Prosecutor concludes that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, he shall submit a request for authorisation for an investigation, together with any supporting material that has been collected.”
“Under Article 7(1) of the Statute, a crime against humanity involves any of the specified acts that are listed when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”
“Similarly, pursuant to Regulation 49 of the Regulations of the Court, the Prosecutor can provide information to the Chamber on the basis of information by non-governmental organisations and the media.”