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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Bensouda vows to prosecute Nigeria’s political leaders if…

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Fatou Bensouda vowed that any Nigerian political leader who incites or engages in crimes within her court’s jurisdiction would face prosecution. 

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“Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution either by Nigerian courts or by ICC,” she said in a statement released yesterday.

A country already in Boko Haram troubles, Nigeria is heading to the polls on February 14 in a presidential election that pits incumbent Goodluck Jonathan against a former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari.

Bensouda reminded presidential candidates and political leaders of a pact they recently signed, committing themselves to refrain from ‘violence before, during and after these elections’.

She continued: “At a time when abhorrent levels of violence already plague parts of the country, I recall that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on the territory of Nigeria or by Nigerian nationals from 1 July 2002 onwards. Crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC have already been committed in this context, as reflected in my Office’s preliminary examination report published in December 2014. Further analysis is on-going to determine the next steps that my Office should take in accordance with its duties under the Rome Statute. 

“Experience has shown that electoral competition, when gone astray, can give rise to violence and in the worst case scenarios, even trigger the commission of mass crimes that “shock the conscience of humanity.” 

The Gambian’s warning came barely a few days after a section of African leaders renewed threats to withdraw from the UN-backed court amid allegations that it is bias and prosecutes only crimes in Africa. 

However, Bensouda who had a strong AU backing for the post is apparently unfazed.

She asserted: “No one should doubt my resolve, whenever necessary, to prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of ICC crimes. A team from my Office will be present in Nigeria prior to the elections to further engage with the authorities and encourage the prevention of crimes.”

The International Criminal Court has in the past launched major investigations into post-election violence in African nations, including Ivory Coast and Kenya.

Ivory Coast’s former president, Laurent Gbagbo, is in The Hague awaiting trial and Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, is standing trial on charges of involvement in election-related killings. Both men insist they are innocent.

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