The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to refer all cases of electoral violence to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a letter by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said all allegations of election-related violence, intimidation, and killings between 1999 to 2019 should be handed over to the ICC for onward investigation and prosecution.
According to SERAP, giving these cases the attention they deserve will send a very strong message that election-related violence, intimidation, and killings will not be tolerated.
Below is the full letter from SERAP to President Buhari.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him to “immediately refer to the International Criminal Court (ICC) pursuant to article 13 of the Rome Statute to which Nigeria is a state party, all allegations of election-related violence, intimidation, and killings between 1999 and 2019 for investigation and prosecution.”
The organization said: “It is important to do this to send a powerful message that election-related violence, intimidation, and killings will not be tolerated under your watch.”
According to the organization, “The violence, intimidation, and killings in some states around the just concluded general elections suggest that the electoral law and criminal law have over the years not been adequately enforced, and deterrence, through criminal sanctions, is failing. Electoral violence – a species of political violence – is not only a criminal act but crimes under international law, given its widespread and systematic nature over many years.”
The letter read in part: “Apart from undermining the integrity of elections and the democratic process, the repeated failure of successive governments to punish electoral violence has created a culture of impunity among politicians who persistently recruit and arm thugs to intimidate and kill political opponents, and citizens who are simply exercising their rights to participate in their own government.”
“The election-related violence, intimidation and killings since 1999 also amount to a crime against deliberation and dialogue; against participation and peaceful means of settling disputes, and a blatant violation of the rights to life; bodily integrity; liberty; freedom of opinion, expression and association; to vote and freely choose elected representatives; property; and to not live in fear.”
“Persistent violence, intimidation, and other human rights violations around elections undermine the free expression of the will of voters and diminish the opportunity of citizens to hold their representatives to account through the electoral process for their exercise of power and spending of Nigeria’s commonwealth.”
“Successive governments have failed abysmally to take positive measures to ensure ballot box security and prevent violence, intimidation and other serious violations of human rights for many years, invariably undermining the authority, independence, and efficacy of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a body created to ensure free and fair elections as well as obstructing and distorting citizens’ right to freely exercising their right to vote and citizenship.”
“SERAP is concerned about reports of violence, intimidation, and killings in many states of the country including Bayelsa, Borno, Rivers, Lagos, and Oyo states. At least 30 people have been reportedly killed and several injured during the just concluded presidential and legislative polls. Like previous elections since the return of democracy in 1999, the 2019 general elections of February 23, 2019, have witnessed violence, intimidation, and killings in several states.”
“SERAP, therefore, urges you to move swiftly to implement these proposed recommendations as a way of demonstrating your government’s commitment to end the culture and legacy of election-related violence, intimidation and killings in the country, ensure prosecution of suspected perpetrators and justice for victims as well as ensure the safety and security of Nigerian voters, observers and other people in subsequent elections.”
“Citizens are entitled to the internationally recognized right to a free and fair election, expressed in the principles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ to which Nigeria is a state party. The African Charter has been domesticated as part of our domestic laws.”
“Establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate election-related violence, intimidation and killings since 29 May 1999 would help Nigerians to know exactly those behind these egregious violations of human rights and to bring suspected perpetrators and their sponsors to justice as well as contribute to preventing and deterring such incidents in future elections.”
“The proposed commission should be led by a retired justice of the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The activities of the commission must be open to the public and all the governors of states that have repeatedly witnessed election-related violence, intimidation and killings should be summoned to give a public account of the number of abuses that have been recorded in their states over the years.”
“The commission should make recommendations including on the prosecution of those found to have perpetrated directly or indirectly or are complicit in committing these criminal acts and serious violations of human rights.”
“SERAP also notes that Nigeria is a key member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has “accountability, economic and social justice and popular participation in development” as part of the fundamental principles contained in its Revised Treaty. In a similar way, Nigeria is a state party to the UN Convention against Corruption. Article 1(c) of the Convention states the purpose of the treaty as including: ‘To promote integrity, accountability and proper management of public affairs and public property.’”