Access to Justice has welcomed the statement by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda announcing that the Office of the Prosecutor will now be opening a formal investigation into the atrocities committed by both Boko Haram and Nigeria’s Security Forces.
According to the Project Director, Joseph Otteh ‘Deji Ajare, the investigation is long overdue,
“In fact, many Nigerians may even have given up on it, given the time it has taken to reach this determination. It is also possible that the time lapse may have given Nigeria’s security agencies reasons for optimism that their atrocities will stay under the rug, and could also have emboldened them to practice more atrocities.
“The ICC’s announcement is therefore a game-changer and we applaud the ICC for finally getting to this point and raising hopes that there will be at last, a day of reckoning, a time to serve accountability and justice for the thousands of innocent blood that have been spilled without cause and for the many other horrendous atrocities that have been perpetrated by both Boko Haram and our security forces.
“Both Boko Haram and Nigeria’s military forces have, until now, largely lived above the law, killing and maiming and walking away free, and in the case of the military, finding support in governments that have been as ready to indulge its atrocities as the military has been willing to commit them. We have seen this in Kaduna, in the Federal Capital Territory, in Aba and lately in Lagos State.
“Atrocities committed by both Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces are overwhelming in their number and terrifying in their brutality; sometimes, the scale of horror employed by both sides were, by and large, at par, making it impossible to distinguish a form of abuse committed by one party from that committed by the other. No barrel was too deep to be plumbed, and no lines too sacred to be crossed by both sides.
“Unfortunately, these atrocities have been committed under the watch of constitutional governments that have been too eager to offer the military a free pass in whatsoever it (the military) determined was necessary for its counter-terrorism operations.
“Access to Justice is concerned that, with this development and Statement by the ICC, there will be desperate attempts to destroy and/or tamper with evidence that will be pivotal for the ICC’s investigation and urges the ICC to take proactive measures to secure vital evidence.
“In particular, the lives of Sheik El Zakzaky and his remaining family must be protected at all cost as well as the
lives of those who witnessed the ENDSARS shootings. Access to Justice also urges the Nigerian government to cooperate fully with the ICC’s investigation, as a way of proving that it is not condoning impunity and lawlessness and is ready to abide by the rule of law.
“After a long season of silence, and a long night of dismay, justice may yet arrive someday”, he stated.
A2Justice is a non-profit, non-governmental organization working to promote integrity, transparency, accountability and independence in legal and judicial institutions and to protect the rights of individuals and groups to justice. A2Justice is the 2009 recipient of MacArthur Foundation’s Award for Creative and Effective Institutions and also the 2010 recipient of the first- ever Nigerian Bar Association’s Gani Fawehinmi Award for Human Rights and Social Justice