Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a civil advocacy group, has petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC) over election-related violence in Nigeria.
SERAP is asking ICC leadership to seek authorisation from the ICC Chamber to commence an investigation into the situation in the country in relation to the growing cases of pre-election violence, which the organisation said, if not addressed may escalate and lead to post-election violence in the country.
The petition dated February 11, 2023 was sent to Karim Khan, QC, Prosecutor, ICC.
SERAP urged 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 followed reports of election-related violence in several states including Lagos, Rivers, and Kaduna states. According to the organisation, over 4,000 cases of violent attacks and 11,000 fatalities were reported across the country between January 1, 2022 and February 3, 2023 alone.
In the petition signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said that these cases reflect the gravest election-related crimes in several states ahead of the general elections.
SERAP said that based on these cases and other similar cases and trends of election violence, it believes 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.”