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International Criminal Court Begins Probe Into #EndSARS Protests

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International Criminal Court (ICC) has said it has opened a preliminary inquiry into the recent demonstrations against harassment and brutality by the police across different states in Nigeria.

According to BBC West Africa Correspondent, Chi Chi Izundu, in a tweet on Wednesday morning, ICC said it had received information on alleged crimes during the protests, which were organised under the #EndSARS campaign.

In October, many Nigerians took to the streets to call for an end to police brutality. In response to the protests, Mohammed Adamu, inspector-general of police (IGP), announced the dissolution of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) — a unit that had been accused of extrajudicial killings.

The ICC said the inquiry will begin with “whether the legal criteria for opening an investigation under the Rome Statute are met”.

The BBC correspondent expressed;

The International Criminal Court has confirmed to BBC Africa that it has started a preliminary examination into the #EndSARS events in Nigeria. The Office of the ICC Prosecutor said it had received information on alleged crimes and the examination would ‘assess whether the legal criteria for opening an investigation under the Rome Statute… are met.

Izundu also confirmed the Office of ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda was currently analyzing the materials sent from protesters and will announce to the public when a final decision process is reached.

The development comes few weeks after a number of civil society organizations (CSO) threatened to report some heads of security agencies to the ICC over the conduct of their personnel during the demonstrations, popularly called #EndSARS protests.

Kolawole Oluwadare, Deputy Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), also petitioned ICC’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda asking her to;

promptly investigate reports that Nigerian authorities, military, and some politicians have used/ and are using thugs, soldiers and security agents to intimidate, harass, attack and kill #EndSARS peaceful protesters in several parts of Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states.

The petition, dated October 21, 2020, urged the Court’s prosecutor to;

Push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths, and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.

He added;

The Nigerian authorities over the years have been unwilling and/or unable to prosecute suspected perpetrators of killing of protesters, which in turn has promoted a culture of impunity and emboldened authorities, the military, politicians and their accomplices who continue to commit human rights crimes against protesters.

However, Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, has since dismissed the threats to report him and some heads of security agencies to the ICC and other international authorities.

Buratai said;

They have continually threatened to report the NA to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and also threatened various forms of sanctions against personnel and their families.

Criminal elements are threatening us with travel ban but we are not worried because we must remain in this country to make it better.

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