The International Justice System and the Hunt for Africans By Alexander MEZYAEV

14 August 2013 — Strategic Culture Foundation

The summer of 2013 was a hot one for Nigeria, and not just in terms of the weather. On the one hand, the country’s populace and government have been subjected to new and increasingly violent attacks from terrorist groups, first and foremost from Boko Haram. On the other hand, Nigeria is experiencing massive pressure from the International Criminal Court, international human rights organizations and the local fifth column. This synchronized attack comes amid the destabilization of a number of neighboring countries…

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is one of the largest countries in Africa. Its population[1] is the largest in Africa and the ninth largest in the world.[2] Nigeria’s main extractable resources are oil and natural gas; it also has tin, iron ore, niobium, lead and zinc. Nigeria has the 10th largest oil reserves (around 40 billion barrels) and the 7th largest gas reserves (around 5 trillion cubic meters) in the world. The country is an influential member of OPEC and exports over 2 million barrels of oil a day (14th place in the world).

The history of Nigeria in the context of the international justice system is quite sad and smacks strongly of oil. For example, in 2002 the International Court of the UN handed down a decision on a territorial dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria and ruled that the Bakassi peninsula belongs to Cameroon. This decision was notable in several respects. First, this peninsula, which is very rich in oil reserves, had belonged to Nigeria since the independence of both countries. The decision to take a huge territory from one state and “award” it to another is unprecedented in the postwar history of international law. The International Court was not deterred even by the fact that along with the territory it essentially awarded Cameroon the entire population of the peninsula. Formally, Nigerian citizens were allowed to “freely choose” their citizenship; they could either remain Nigerians or become Cameroonians, and Cameroon was required to grant Cameroonian citizenship to all who wanted it. However, the International Court of the UN is unable to answer the question as to the extent to which all this madness is consistent with international law. Although it has tried. Scarcely having entered the 21st century, the main judicial organ of the United Nations declared that colonial treaties remain in force to this day, and moreover, they take precedence over any other sources of law in Africa! It’s difficult to believe, but a fact is a fact: Cameroon’s right to claim the Bakassi peninsula was “established” on the basis of a treaty between Britain and Germany! That is, not only was a colonial treaty declared to have precedence; it was a treaty between two colonizing countries![3]

In 2007 Nigeria tried to resolve the crisis in Liberia by granting asylum to its then president, Charles Taylor. Despite the fact that Nigeria had granted Taylor safe conduct, the Special Court for Sierra Leone forced the Nigerian government to extradite Taylor. Nigeria again was the hostage of the international justice system. Nigeria was given to understand that intra-African resolution of crises is unacceptable to the “international community”.

In 2000 Nigeria signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Most likely, Nigeria was trying to make its participation in the international court work in its favor. In 2005 it lodged a complaint with the ICC and requested an investigation into crimes committed by various rebel and terrorist organizations, first and foremost Boko Haram. How naive!

On July 15, 2013, during Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s visit to Nigeria, the International Criminal Court ordered the Nigerian government to arrest al-Bashir. Just that, ordered. Although the Court order used the word requests, further the order indicates that if the “request” is not honored, the case – now against Nigeria – will be referred to the UN Security Council. And the local pro-Western fifth column of “human rights activists” has taken an active position and has already filed a suit with the Supreme Court of Nigeria against the country’s government, alleging that it has “violated its international obligations”.[4]

Here it is important to emphasize that in fact Nigeria has not violated any international obligations. In its order the ICC asserted that if Nigeria is a state party to the Statute of the Court, then it is obligated to execute the order to arrest the president of Sudan.[5]This assertion is slippery from a legal point of view. States parties to the ICC are, in fact, obliged to cooperate with the Court. However, the obligation to cooperate does not mean executing any orders. The International Criminal Court “forgot” to mention that Nigeria is obligated to execute not just any order, but only a lawful order of the Court. The demand to arrest the president of Sudan is a demand to violate the immunity of a head of state, established by the norms of usual international law. And Nigeria has every right not to execute such an order.

Furthermore, one should keep in mind that the legal system of Nigeria does not recognize the automatic application of international treaties. In order for an international treaty to be applied, its provisions must first be implemented in the national law of the country. Despite the fact that Nigeria signed the Statute of the ICC in 2000, it has not yet implemented its provisions in the internal laws of the country. Thus the suit of the local fifth column will most likely be dismissed because of the absence of the laws, although, considering the long-standing traditions of the independence of the Nigerian court, as well as the traditions of Anglo-Saxon common law (which gives judges the possibility to create law independently), various things could happen…

On August 6 ICC chief prosecutor F. Bensouda made a statement regarding the Nigerian government’s request in connection with the activities of terrorist organizations operating in the northern part of the country, especially the notorious Boko Haram (BH). The prosecutor stated that the investigation (which has been in progress for over seven years!) has led to the conclusion that there is a reasonable basis to believe that since July 2009 BH has committed crimes against humanity on the territory of Nigeria and that these actions fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. However, no specific actions against BH are mentioned in the report.[6]

It is interesting that, in addition to the terrorist attacks by BH, the ICC prosecutor is conducting other investigations on Nigeria as well. For example, the prosecutor’s report refers to violence in the “oil-rich Niger Delta region”, that is, it directly points to the oil-related roots of the violence. The violence there is indeed connected with a conflict regarding control over oil between local paramilitary groups and the government. One of the main groups is the “Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta”, which is involved in kidnapping both foreign and Nigerian citizens and attacking oil infrastructure. Now the ICC has been drawn by the scent of oil as well.

However, the main point of the ICC prosecutor’s report is paragraph 9, in which the prosecutor sends a clear signal to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan himself. Paragraph 9 states that within the scope of the “situation in Nigeria”, the prosecutor is investigating complaints not only against the groups about which the country’s government is complaining, but…against the government itself as well. President Jonathan could himself become a defendant in the International Criminal Court, as during a special military operation against Boko Haram in June 2011, soldiers and police sent by Jonathan allegedly committed international crimes, including extrajudicial killings, torture, pillaging, etc. Thus the ICC has taught yet another lesson (after Uganda and Cote d’Ivoire) to African leaders who want to use their membership in the court to their own advantage.

In connection with this, the government’s offer of amnesty to Boko Haram fighters is understandable: instead of decisive force, the government has started backpedaling. And naturally, this immediately led to a new wave of violence. Attacks by Boko Haram are becoming increasingly brutal. Now in addition to Christian churches, the terrorists are attacking schools, that is, children. The goal of BH is to arouse hatred, and extreme hatred at that. And the shift to killing children as a tactic, while monstrous, was predictable. They want to arouse the kind of hatred that will never end. For Nigeria as a state, the arousing of hatred on religious grounds is dangerous, and on national grounds it is fatal.

As early as 2010 the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government made a decision not to cooperate with the International Criminal Court with regard to the arrest of Sudanese president al-Bashir. In June 2013 the leaders of the African Union (AU) spoke out more harshly about the policy of the ICC with regard to Africa. For example, Ugandan president Y. Museveni stated that the ICC is “hunting for Africans”. This assessment is true: currently all the cases in this court (one hundred percent, no exceptions!) are situations in African countries. Museveni’s assessment, albeit in a not very diplomatic form, received the approval of the Assembly of the African Union.

2013 added yet another head of state, Kenyan president Uhuru Keniatta, to the list of those accused by the ICC. The hunt of the International Criminal Court for Africans continues…



[1]According to the 2006 census the country’s population was 140 million people, while the CIA World Factbook for 2013 places the population at 170 million people.

[2]According to the estimates of specialists in world demographics, by 2100 Nigeria will occupy third place in the world after India and China (See http://image. guardian.co.uk /sys–files /Guardian /documents /2013 /06/13 /World _Populations _WEB.pdf).

[3]See the decision of the International  Court of the UN on the case of Cameroon v. Nigeria (Case Concerning the Land and Maritime Boundary Between Cameroon and Nigeria) from October 10, 2002 on the official site of the International Court of Justice: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/94/7453.pdf

[4]Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court v. The Federal Republic of Nigeria. // http://www.iccnow.org/documents/NCICC_orgs_vs_AG_Federation_on_Al_Bashir.pdf

[5]Situation in Darfur, Sudan. The Prosecutor v. Omar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir. Decision Regarding Omar al-Bashir’s Visit to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, // Official site of the International Criminal Court: http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/doc/doc1619414.pdf

[6]International Criminal Court. The Office of the Prosecutor. Situation in Nigeria Article 5 Report. 5 August 2013, // http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/PIDS/docs/SAS%20-%20NGA%20-%20Public%20version%20 Article%205%20Report %20-%2005%20August %202013.PDF

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