July 25th, The Hague, The Netherlands – International Human Rights Non-governmental organization, Jubilee Campaign, is seeking the improvement of the International Criminal Court’s processes to expedite the handling of investigations and review of reported crimes against humanity.
After meetings with the ICC in an attempt to find out the status of preliminary examinations the ICC prosecutor had announced since last year, Jubilee Campaign Netherlands Chairperson Ann Buwalda Esq said “it came as quite a surprise to learn ICC has been conducting a preliminary examination into the situation in Nigeria since 2004. That appears to be way too long. In the meantime thousands more people have died from conflicts in that country. We have no idea when these examinations will end, if ever.” Noting that Nigeria was among the first 60 nations to ratify the Rome Statute and join as a member of the court, the ICC first launched its investigation of violence in Jos, Plateau State in 2004. That initial examination remains open seven years later, and five states are also in this preliminary examination stage. The ICC has not yet launched an “investigation” of Nigeria or any specific incidents within five states under examination.
Jubilee Campaign had approached the ICC along with a delegation from Jos, Plateau to discuss possible areas of helping expedite the work of the ICC. However, the ICC did not meet with the Plateau State government officials on the delegation because of restrictions found within the rules of the Rome statute. The Rome Statute allows NGOs as well as national governments more access to the ICC than local authorities including even those in whose jurisdiction crimes may have been committed. Thus, three Plateau State officials which included the Attorney General and the former Congresswoman whose constituents included victims of the 2010 violence, were excluded from today’s otherwise meaningful meeting at the ICC
“We find it worrisome that it appears local authorities whose subjects are victims of mass killings have less right to interact with the ICC than NGOs such as ourselves. While we find this both absurd and frustrating, we feel in the interim that we should help be a voice for the voiceless in this instance,” says Buwalda.
Lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe, Counsel to the Plateau State delegation, gave his view on the impact of the restrictions of the ICC governing rules on victims. “There is definitely a contradiction in a prosecutor in the Hague aspiring to take jurisdiction over incidents that occur 10,000 miles away then not being able to collaborate with local officials who are on the scene to examine the situation. The law which says only federal governments can be liaised with does not make any investigative or prosecutorial good sense and should be changed. Anyone who is in the position to shed light on the resolution of a case should be more than welcome. That is a civic duty and that is the way most of us were brought up to be responsible citizens.” Mr. Ogebe continued that, “It is a most unusual situation to find a state government like Plateau which is actually the size of some African nations having less right than Jubilee Campaign. It is ironic that any court would have such an unfair system of viewing interested parties. We are happy the ICC met with us and we explained the absurdity of this situation. We now hope to be able to help them be more helpful to the cause of human rights globally.”
In fact, Article 15 welcomes NGO submissions at this preliminary examination stage in which the ICC continues its receipt of information. NGOs are encouraged to make their submissions directly to the ICC, and the contact information is given on the ICC website. The ICC section known as the Jurisdiction Complementary and Cooperation Division reiterated that it welcomes NGO reports. The procedural overview provided by this section was meaningful, despite the constraints that the Rome Statute imposes.