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Nigerian Rights Group Wants Jonathan To Arrest Sudanese President

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SAN FRANCISCO, July 15, (THEWILL) – A civil right group, the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC), on Monday, filed a suit asking a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to compel President Goodluck Jonathan to arrest Sudanese President Oman Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir immediately he lands in Nigeria and hand him to over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Netherlands, for trial.

The group also asked the court to issue a provisional warrant for the arrest of Al-Bashir, whom, it said, would be attending the international HIV/AIDS Conference which opened in Abuja on Monday. The group said this is pursuant to the warrant of arrest issued by the ICC on March 4 , 2009 and a second warrant of arrest issued by the ICC on July 12 , 2010.

In an affidavit attached to the originating summons of the suit filed by the Chair, Steering Committee of NCICC, Mr. Chino Obiagwu, the group said Nigeria, being a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC and pursuant to Articles 89(1) and 91 of the Rome Statute and Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Laws of Treaties, had an obligation to enforce the warrant for the arrest of Al-Bashir.

In the suit, the group wants the court to determine whether Nigeria has a legal obligation under Article 89 of the Rome Statute and Article 26 of the Vienna Convention to arrest any person indicted by ICC and surrender such person to the court?,

It said if the answer is yes, the court should then determine whether Nigeria is under obligation to arrest and surrender Al-Bashir to the ICC and whether the court can issue an arrest warrant against Al Bashir on the basis of the indictment by ICC?.

Joined as plaintiffs in the suit are the the Legal Defence and Assistance Project and The Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre.

Obiagwu, who briefed the media in Abuja after filing the suit, said the failure by Nigeria to arrest Al-Bashir would further "deteriorate Nigeria’s diplomatic reputation under this administration and questions the government commitment to fighting impunity here in Nigeria and Africa."

Recalling that Nigeria nominated a judge to the ICC in 2011 and had made previous contributions to the setting up and continued functioning of the court , he said: "It will amount to grave diplomatic blunder for the Jonathan administration to invite and give full ceremonial reception to war crime indictee, in disregard of millions of victims of Darfur atrocities and their families, some of them Nigeria citizens, who are crying for justice."

The suit came as the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) also sent an urgent request to the ICC Prosecutor , Ms Fatou Bensouda, requesting her to use her good offices and position to urgently refer the Federal Government to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest Al-Bashir and surrender him to the ICC.

In a petition dated July 15, and signed by the SERAP Solicitor, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, the organisation said “Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court having ratified the Statute in September 2001."

According to Article 87, the ICC Prosecutor can refer a state party that refuses to cooperate with a request from the ICC, to the Assembly of States Parties or, where the Security Council referred the matter to the Court as in this case, to the Security Council.

“President Omar Al-Bashir is currently in Abuja attending a conference. SERAP notes that the International Criminal Court already issued two arrest warrants for Omar Al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. The warrants, issued in 2009 and 2010, charge him with criminal responsibility on 10 counts, including murder, extermination, forcible transfer of population, torture and rape,” SERAP said.

When the UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC in 2005, it urged all states to co-operate fully with the Court.

According to the ICC, Bashir's official capacity as head of state does not exclude criminal responsibility or get him immunity.

“In 2009, the ICC Prosecutor acting pursuant to article 89 of the Rome Statute issued a decision requesting all states parties to the Rome Statute to cooperate with the court in the Omar Al-Bashir case.

“The ICC has already exercised this power with respect to Chad and Kenya and we urge you to exercise your authority in this case to refer the Nigerian government to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest President Omar Al-Bashir and surrender him to the ICC,” SERAP said.