ICC concludes preliminary investigation into Shiites massacre; continues probe of IPOB killings
The International Criminal Court is moving gradually towards prosecution of Nigerian officials involved in the December 2015 massacre of members of Islamic Movements of Nigeria.
The office of the prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal reached its preliminary conclusion into the killings in December 2017, submitted its findings to the Nigerian government and demanded explanations about the incident.
The ICC said the attack on IMN members, which was carried out by the Nigerian Army and condemned by human rights voices across the world, violated international statutes on human rights.
Also advancing at the ICC is its investigation into the gruesome rights abuses and killings of members of separatist Independent People of Biafra, IPOB.
The group has come under repeated assault by the Nigerian security agencies since October 2015 when its leader Nnamdi Kanu was arrested by the State Security Service in Lagos.
Mr. Kanu was later moved to Abuja where he had been standing trial until September 2017 when he disappeared following a military raid on his country home in Umuahia.
PREMIUM TIMES reported the extra-judicial killing and mass burial of over 120 people in one of several attacks on pro-Biafra supporters in May 2016 by security agencies, an incident described as “a genocide” against the Igbo by IPOB leaders.
The ICC has submitted its preliminary findings on the Shiites massacre to Attorney-General Abubakar Malami.
The ICC prosecutors said they relied on the different channels of information, including the findings of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government.
The panel had found several Nigerian Army officers culpable in the killings and recommended them for prosecution, including Niyi Oyebade, a major-general who was the Grand Officer Commanding of the Nigerian Army 1 Division at the time.
The IMN said it lost more than a thousand members in the attack that took place between December 12 and 14 at its headquarters in Zaria.
A representative of the Kaduna State Government told the commission of inquiry that 347 bodies were handed over by the army for a secret mass burial.
The leader of the IMN, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who was arrested by soldiers during the operation, has remained in the custody of the State Security Service more than two years later — in defiance of court orders that he should be released immediately in 2016.
If the ICC chief prosecutor ultimately gives an approval for a trial to go ahead over the crimes, it would mark the first time a Nigerian would be hauled to The Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
The Nigerian government declined comments for this story. For three weeks, PREMIUM TIMES pushed several phone calls and text messages in a bid to get reactions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Responding, the leader of delegation, Phakiso Choko, said that the prosecutor did not intend to compromise the sovereign rights of Nigeria in investigating crimes and meting out punishment.
He said that most cases referred to the ICC were the ones host nations were unable to resolve through internal mechanism.
Mr. Nwegbe said the fact that the Nigerian government has done nothing about the recommendations of a judicial panel or obey court pronouncements on the crises could mean that its internal mechanism has failed.
Mr. Nwegbe said the civil society would be the ultimate beneficiary of the ICC conclusion.
“They mere assurance that the ICC is not sweeping the case under the carpet is enough to encourage human rights groups to continue pushing for justice,” Mr. Nwegbe said.
Nigeria became a signatory to the ICC statute in 2002, putting it directly under the jurisdiction of the court.