SERAP asks ICC to probe killings of #EndSARS protesters

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe security operatives involved in the killing of peaceful protesters across the country.

More than a dozen people were reportedly killed and many injured on Tuesday night when men in military uniform opened fire on unarmed protesters in Lekki tollgate area of Lagos.

The killings sparked national and international uproar and condemnation.

Joe Biden, US presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, and Hillary Clinton, former US secretary of state, are among those who have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the crackdown on the protesters.

In a petition dated 21 October 2020 and signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP’s deputy director, the human rights group asked Fatou Bensouda, ICC prosecutor, to “promptly investigate reports that Nigerian authorities, military, and some politicians have used/ and are using thugs, soldiers and security agents to intimidate, harass, attack and kill #EndSARS peaceful protesters in several parts of Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states”.

“The ICC should push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC,” the petition read.

“The Nigerian authorities over the years have been unwilling and/or unable to prosecute suspected perpetrators of killing of protesters, which in turn has promoted a culture of impunity and emboldened authorities, the military, politicians and their accomplices who continue to commit human rights crimes against protesters.

“Without accountability for these serious human rights crimes against peaceful protesters, the victims will continue to be denied access to justice, and impunity of perpetrators will remain widespread and the result will continue to be a vicious cycle of violence against Nigerians.

“Nigerian authorities, military and some politicians have failed abysmally to ensure the enjoyment of the rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful protest by the people. These events suggest criminal conduct within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

“Persistent attacks on peaceful protesters by Nigerian authorities, military, security agents and some politicians seriously undermine the people’s right to participate in their own government, and have resulted in serious human rights crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.”

“Ending impunity for attacks on peaceful protesters would improve respect for human rights in the country, and empower the citizens to hold their leaders to account. Unless the citizens are freely allowed to exercise their right to protest, the pervasive culture of impunity will continue to flourish in the country.”

“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly failed to address these grave human rights violations, which amount to crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

“The CCTV monitoring cameras at the Lekki toll gate and street lights were reportedly turned off before soldiers opened fire on peaceful protesters. This suggests a deliberate ploy by the authorities to cover up these crimes against humanity.

“Nigerian authorities have shot tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds at protesters, reportedly killing at least 60 people and wounding several others. According to Amnesty International, on October 10, Jimoh Isiaka was allegedly killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters in Ogbomosho, Oyo state.

“Nigeria has a long history of systematic and widespread attacks on peaceful protesters especially since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in May 2015. Nigerian authorities have failed to ensure justice for killings of protesters. Hundreds of members of the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) were killed by the Nigeria army in Zaria, Kaduna State on December 12, 2015.

“SERAP urges you to investigate the killing of protesters, and other attacks perpetrated against protesters, and if there is sufficient admissible evidence prosecute officials, soldiers and any politicians for allegations of killing and violence against protesters, as provided for under the Rome Statute, and other relevant treaties, to deter the crimes and end impunity in the country.

“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case. Under Article 17 of the Rome Statute, the Court is a court of last resort, expected to exercise its jurisdiction only if states themselves are unwilling or unable genuinely to investigate and prosecute international crimes.”

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