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ICC Cautioned Against Blaming Victims In Nigeria Massacre Investigation

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has written a strongly worded letter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague seeking clarification for comments in a recent report that seem to apportion blame for a 2015 massacre of over 1000 innocent people on the victims.

In its Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2017 the ICC states in reference to the attack by armed forces on supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria: “It is alleged that members of the IMN armed with batons, knives, and machetes stopped the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff on a principal road in Zaria on 12 December 2015”.

The letter reminds the ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that to repeat the government narrative is a grave mistake especially when the report “fails to present the victims’ perspective, ignores all of the evidence except that presented by the government and unfairly presents the victims of the violence as the instigators of the violence that took place over those fateful three days.”

The ICC comments are worrying especially in view of the fact that no evidence has been presented, either by the army or public, in support of the government narrative. In fact, all the photographic and video evidence of the attack shows soldiers walking around IMN buildings at a leisurely pace without any fear for their safety as they took up their positions before opening fire without any provocation on the unarmed IMN supporters. They attacked various IMN sites over three days, and at no point was the army attacked.

However there is a large body of evidence ranging from eye witness accounts to victim statements and video evidence that shows that IMN supporters were unarmed and did not engage in any violent activity.

“If the ICC is to be an effective and impartial body that holds perpetrators of international crimes to account, it needs to avoid victim blaming,” says the letter.

The 2015 massacre led to the shooting and arrest of IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah. They remain in custody without trial in defiance of a court ruling ordering their release. Since the massacre Nigerian authorities have waged a brutal campaign of repression against the IMN that has seen more lives lost, the movement banned in the state of Kaduna as an unlawful society and followers of the movement incarcerated.

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