Some international civil society organisations have cautioned the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensou over misguided utterances against the Nigerian military and sister agencies .
The International Human Rights Protection Forum (IHRPF) gave this warning in a letter to the Office of the Chief Prosecutor on Tuesday.
In the letter signed by its Director of Communication, Zakari Yinusa, the IHRPF said the ICC pre-convicted the military, adding that it was faulty and not in tandem with any known criminal court.
The group also expressed frustration over reports that the ICC has been compromised by Amnesty International who it claims is “pumping millions of dollars into the Chief Prosecutor’s office to ensure that the military is demoralized to the extent of losing focus on the final defeat of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist groups”.
The CSO, though, assured that the Armed Force under the current dispensation over the years adhered strictly to the extant laws, rules of engagement and international best practices.
“As far as we are concerned, the position you have taken is a subtle way of casting aspersions on the military while at the same time strengthening the terrorists and their sympathizers to keep unleashing mayhem on innocent citizens,” the letter stated in part.
The group, however, advised the ICC Chief Prosecutor to retrace her steps and stop being used against Nigeria.
It added that “we shall prevail on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami SAN through civil actions to cease further cooperation with the International Criminal Court in terms of exchange of classified national security information or legal documents”.
Read full letter below:
As a strategic partner with the International Criminal Court (ICC), our International Human Rights Protection Forum (IHRPF) has always advocated that perpetrators of terrible crimes against the human race must be held to account. To this end, we closely monitored the recent #EndSARS Protests in Nigeria and forwarded not less than three different Criminal Complaints to your office against various individuals, groups and institutions found complicit in escalating the crises which almost ruined our dear country. We are aware that other human right organizations equally wrote and supplied avalanche of incriminating pieces of evidence against some non-state actors for fueling the ill-fated #EndSARS Protests.
Our expectation is that as the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, you would within this period that Nigeria is struggling to recover from the severe pains inflicted on her citizens and economy, concentrate on adequately considering the multiple Criminal Complaints piling on your table with a view to bringing the identified culprits to book. Regrettably, you seem to have abandoned the noble purpose for which the ICC was established and allowed yourself to be used by Amnesty International to complicate the precarious security situation in Nigeria. We submit that by all standards, the hasty manner in which the Nigerian Security Forces were pre-convicted through your media pronouncement on Friday, 11th December, 2020 is faulty and not in tandem with any known International Criminal Law, Instrument or Protocol.
We are surprised that it took you over a decade to analyze the bunch of lies sold to ICC by Amnesty International before coming to the so called conclusion that there is reasonable basis to believe that “members of the Nigerian Security Forces (NSF) have committed acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes”. Experience should have taught you that Amnesty International had been working desperately with other foreign enemies to give the Nigerian Security Forces a bad name in order to hang them. A situation whereby you allow leaders of Boko Haram as well as notorious criminals like Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who continually rebel constituted authorities in Nigeria to move freely across the world but rather choose to declare cold legal war against the Nigerian Security Forces is rather unfortunate, wicked and suspicious. It goes to buttress the assertion in various quarters that Amnesty International has been pumping millions of dollars into your office to ensure that the military is demoralized to the extent of losing focus on the final defeat of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist groups.
Our investigations also reveal that Nigerian Armed Forces under the current dispensation in carrying out counter terrorism operations within the North East and other parts of the country have over the years ensured that their troops do everything possible to adhere strictly to the extant laws, rules of engagement and international best practices. On no account shall we allow the ICC to dampen the morale of military troops who have been fighting tirelessly to keep Nigeria and her people safe. As far as we are concerned, the position you have taken is a subtle way of casting aspersions on the military while at the same time strengthening the terrorists and their sympathizers to keep unleashing mayhem on innocent citizens. This we condemn in its entirety and call on other sister organizations to join in the struggle to save Nigeria from another foreign oppression.
Until you retrace your steps from being used against Nigeria, we shall prevail on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami SAN through civil actions to cease further cooperation with the International Criminal Court in terms of exchange of classified national security information or legal documents. We will equally prevail on the Federal Republic of Nigeria to opt-out of being a signatory to the Rome Statute and adopt a new policy of protecting her military personnel, officials, and nationals from your illegitimate use of the powers inherent in the ICC. After all, the core issues of when Nigeria can lawfully resort to armed force, how that force may be applied, and whether particular actions constitute serious international offences of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide are duly covered by local laws.
In particular, Section 217 (1) and (2) (a) – (d) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) no doubt clothes the Armed Forces with the authority to take charge of defending Nigeria from external aggression, maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air. The Armed Forces are also empowered to suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly. Section 3 of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 fortifies the powers of the Armed Forces when it provides that they shall be charged with the defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by land, sea and air and with such other duties as the National Assembly may from time to time prescribe or direct by an Act.
On the whole, we urge you to always maintain neutrality in handling affairs of State parties. The need for the ICC to remain accountable to the United Nations Security Council in line with Chapter 5, Article 24 (1) of the UN Charter for purposes of maintaining international peace and security cannot be overemphasized. Massive atrocities have been committed by terrorists in Nigeria under your nose yet you kept mute, only to regain your voice where the military is mentioned. It is, therefore, our prayer that you take urgent steps to correct the erroneous impression which your publication has made concerning the hitherto highly esteemed reputation of the ICC. The best thing we envisage from your office in the coming days is to prove to the world that ICC is indeed not being subjected to undue pressure from Western Nations hiding under the cover of Amnesty International to bankroll the hatchet job of throwing Nigeria into complete anarchy through the promotion of terrorist activities.
We do hope that you will be properly guided!