YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – In part on the basis of widespread attacks against Christians, a human rights organization in Nigeria has filed a complaint against the governor of Nigeria’s southeastern Imo state as well as 31 other public officials before the International Criminal Court in the Hague, charging them with “crimes against humanity.”
The 13-page criminal complaint was filed with the ICC on June 19 on behalf of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), and was prepared by a legal team headed by Austin Okeke, a respected human rights lawyer.
In its “Particulars Of Crimes,” the brief states that “there have been several extrajudicial killings, torture, physical assaults, abductions and other gross abuses of human rights in Imo State, Nigeria, which include but are not limited to: Incidences of murder, abduction, extortion, state-sponsored terrorism, persecution against a group or collectivity based on its political, racial, national ethnic or religious character, class criminalization and reprisal targeted against unarmed civilians (in addition to incessancy of civilian house burnings or wanton destruction of civilian homes and other properties”.
The document says the state governor and other state actors “aided and abetted, and are still aiding and abetting, the Imo mass murders and other atrocities as well as grossly conspiring in their perpetration and perpetuation.”
The document argues that “prima facie pieces of evidence” warrant investigation by the ICC over possible violations of international human rights and criminal laws and under both the United Nations and the African Union systems, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the Conventions against Torture and Involuntary Disappearances, all of which have been ratified by Nigeria.
The complaint argued that recourse to the ICC was warranted by the failure of Nigeria’s prosecutorial system, which, it asserts, has become an instrument for the perpetration and perpetuation of the crimes.
The document, which has been received by the office of the ICC prosecutor, demands an end to mass killings and violence in Imo state and the arrest and prosecution of state and non-state actors involved.
By way of background, Intersociety asserts that Christians in Nigeria in particular have been “targets and victims of egregious attacks and violence (‘industrial-scale’ crimes against persons/groups and their properties) by the country’s Islamic Jihadists and their protectors in the country’s seats of power, in which the government of Nigeria has been strongly accused of doing nothing or being inescapably complicit.”
In under six months of 2023, according to the group, over 2,300 defenseless Christians were hacked to death by the Jihadists in Nigeria. Over 31,000 have been slaughtered since June 2015, Intersociety reports, and 53,000 since the 2009 Boko Haram uprising. Over 18,000 churches and 2,200 Christian schools have been burned down or destroyed, 1,000 Christian communities sacked, 50 million Christians uprooted and 15 million Christian internally displaced persons generated.
Prior to filing the complaint before the ICC, Intersociety carried out a special investigation into the killings in Imo State and concluded that “no fewer than 1,600 unarmed citizens of Imo State have been killed while 300 others disappeared without trace between January 2021 and May 2023, a period of 29 months.”
The report said further that at least 700 people were wounded, 3,500 were arbitrarily arrested, 1,400 suffered extortions, 300 were disappeared, 1,200 civilian houses were burnt displacing 30,000 owners, and more than 500,000 citizens were forced to flee.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, a criminologist and board chair for Intersociety, said the report was meant to expose those responsible for the killings and other acts of violence, as well those who abetted the criminal acts.
The human rights organization sent a joint letter on May 12 to 29 world leaders through their ambassadors or high commissioners to Nigeria, seeking their intervention in Imo state “to bring to an end the ongoing mass atrocity.”
The letter called for an international visa ban and other legal, diplomatic and justice actions against Governor Hope Uzodinma and others indicted in the report. It accused the government and governor of Imo State of “having grossly omitted to act and aided and abetted and egregiously and grisly conspired in the mass atrocities,” and asked that they should be “targeted for necessary sanctions and international blacklisting.”