Lawyers are to file a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, on alleged human rights abuses against members of the pro-Biafran separatist movement.
Dutch lawyer and professor, Göran Sluiter, who specialises in international criminal law, is leading the team that will file the complaint at the Hague in the Netherlands in February. Sluiter and his colleague, Andrew Ianuzzi, are working full time on the case and are occasionally assisted by a team of 20 other lawyers.
Sluiter told IBTimes UK they had been representing the ‘Biafran minority’ since the arrest of pro-Biafran leader, Nnamdi Kanu, in October 2015. “We have found evidence of some crimes directed against the Biafran minority in Nigeria,” he said. “Violations include violence against demonstrators, torture, murder, enforced disappearances and incarcerations.
“There is a whole list of incidents and with Buhari coming into power, this is becoming more of a structured nature, exemplified by Kanu’s arrest and how the government is dealing with demonstrations calling for Kanu’s release.”
Sluiter also made reference to the use of Skype in sourcing evidence and the issue of human rights.
He said: “In addition to information on public sources, I have conducted phone and Skype interviews with individual victims as we wanted to hear the first-hand evidence.
“I also received pictures of victims of police violence during demonstrations. We will be presenting anonymous interviews with about 20, 25 people, but there are many more victims.
“There has been a systematic denial of human rights of the Biafran people, who are oppressed by the government. We hope that the ICC will bring justice to the victims with serious investigations and hopefully a trial. We also hope that Mr Kanu – whose treatment is symbolic of the treatment of the entire Biafran minority in Nigeria – will be released.”
Thousands of people – mainly from Igbo extraction – identify themselves as Biafrans, a term used to define people living in the Biafran territories forcibly annexed to present-day south-eastern Nigeria during the British colonisation.
Pro-Biafran calls have intensified since October 2015, following the arrest of Kanu, who is also the director of Radio Biafra. In spite of a High Court ruling in favour of his release, Kanu is being detained by the State Security Service (DSS) amid allegations of torture. A day after the ruling, officials pressed new charges against him.
Pro-Biafrans have often accused the police and army of unjustified violence against demonstrators. In one of the latest episodes of alleged violence, the army was accused of killing between four and 10 people who were celebrating the high court verdict on Kanu on 17 December. During several interviews with IBTimes UK, the Nigerian police have always denied the killings.
When asked to comment on the allegations, Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, told IBTimes UK: “The lawyers have a right to their opinions. It does not make what they say gospel truth.”