The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague has said it will investigate the September 2017 invasion of a community in Abia State by soldiers of the Nigerian Army during a military exercise code-named Operation Python Dance 2 (Egwu Eke Abuo).
The Office of the Prosecutor, ICC, stated this in response to a petition filed to the court by a Nigerian journalist, Ahaoma Kanu, following the military occupation of Afara Ukwu community in Umuahia, Abia State, in a bid to arrest the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, which led to the killing of several unarmed members of the group.
In the letter obtained by Daily Sun with reference number OTP-CR-413/17 dated March 20, 2018, which is the second response by the court to the petitioner, it was confirmed that the military invasion and deaths recorded were already under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor.
Part of the letter signed by Mark Dillon, head of the information and evidence unit at the Office of the Prosecutor, read: “Accordingly, your communication will be analysed in this context, with the assistance of other related communications and other available information.”
The Federal Government had proscribed the IPOB even as its members came under attack by security agencies in the country, including the Nigerian Army, Department of State Services (DSS) and the police, leading to the alleged extra-judicial killing of hundreds of IPOB members since 2015 when Kanu was arrested on charges of treason.
After the September 16, 2017, attack on his country home, Kanu and his aged father have not been seen till date, fuelling speculations he was being held by the state.
However, following petitions by civil rights groups, the ICC commenced and concluded preliminary investigations into the alleged killing of over 200 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in December 2015 as well as opened preliminary investigations into the killing of members of the IPOB by the Army in October 2015.
The petitioner, in his petition of September 24, 2017, to the ICC, called for an investigation and prosecution of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, and all members of the Nigerian Army involved in the extra-judicial killings of IPOB members during the Operation Python Dance 2 exercise.
Dillon stated that “under Article 53 of the Rome Statutes, the prosecutor must consider whether there is reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed, the gravity of the crimes, whether national systems are investigating and prosecuting the relevant crimes, and the interests of justice.”
He went further to say that “analysis will be carried out as expeditiously as possible, but please be aware that meaningful analysis of these factors can take some time.”
He further promised to provide reasons for any decision reached by the court to proceed with the investigation.
It was the second time that the ICC would exchange correspondences with the petitioner on the killings in Abia State by the Nigerian military.
Afara Ukwu community recently said it would require about N500 million from the Federal Government to cleanse its land reportedly desecrated by the military invasion,