Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over electoral violence during Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly Election.
SERAP in a letter dated 25 February 2019 signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare urged Buhari to refer cases of electoral violence, killings in states like Rivers, Lagos and Oyo to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The organisation noted that this will serve as a deterrent to offenders and justice to those killed during electoral process.
The statement read: “We urge President Muhammadu Buhari 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.
“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.
“Referral of the cases of election-related violence, intimidation and killings to the ICC would serve as a deterrent and ensure that Nigerians, particularly victims in the states that have repeatedly witnessed violence and whose human rights have been violated are not denied justice and effective remedies.
“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.
“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.
“We also urge you to consider setting up a complementary national mechanism in the form of a commission of inquiry to investigate election-related violence, intimidation and killings between 1999 and 2019 in order to gather evidence relating to allegations of serious violations of human rights and crimes under international law and ensure the effective prosecution of politicians and others responsible for arming political thugs to commit these atrocities.
“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.’”