The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to refer all cases of electoral violence to the International Criminal Court, ICC.
In a letter by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said all allegations of electoral violence, intimidation, and killings between 1999 to 2019 should be handed over to the ICC for onward investigation and prosecution.
According to SERAP, giving these cases the attention they deserve will send a very strong message that electoral violence, intimidation, and killings will not be tolerated.
The letter read in part: “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.
Undermining democratic process
“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.
Reports of violence
“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.”