Letter to the ICC regarding the preliminary examination into the Zaria Massacre


For the attention of:

Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Information and Evidence Unit

Office of the Prosecutor

Post Office Box 19519

2500 CM The Hague

The Netherlands

By Email: otp.informationdesk@icc-cpi.int

Tuesday 06 March 2018

Dear Ms Bensouda,

I am writing to regarding the ICC Preliminary examination into the massacre committed by the Nigerian army in Zaria, Nigeria, in December 2015.

In the Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2017 it states, “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 principle road in Zaria on 12 December 2015”.

The characterisation of Islamic Movement of Nigeria’s (IMN) supporters in this report is false and alarming. Despite numerous investigations and reports by various bodies in Nigeria, not a single shred of credible evidence has been presented showing members of IMN armed or preparing to attack soldiers. In fact, all the pictures and videos from the attack show 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 unarmed IMN supporters. They attacked various sites over three days. At no point was the army attacked. Apart from the its own claims, the military has provided no evidence.

On the other hand there is a preponderance of evidence, from eyewitness accounts to victim statements and video evidence, that shows that IMN supporters were unarmed and did not engage in any violent activity. The Islamic Human Rights Commission has documented this extensively in our communication to the ICC (https://ihrc.org.uk/publications/reports/11646-investigating-the-attack-against-the-islamic-movement-of-nigeria-on-12-13-december-2015-in-zaria) and on our website (https://ihrc.org.uk).

While the ICC report does state the word “alleged”, it does not 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.

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. Caveats do not avoid the fact that the ICC has regurgitated a narrative in which the victims are falsely accused or suspected of violence thereby giving credence to the government’s false claim that this was a law and order operation to contain IMN violence. The ICC needs to be more responsible. It cannot become a vehicle for perpetrators of grave crimes against humanity to peddle false narratives against their victims.

I am pleased to hear that the ICC has reached preliminary findings and will be seeking further clarification from the Nigerian authorities. Given my concerns above, I would like to know what the ICC will do to get clarification / information from IMN, the victims of the army’s attack, those who remain imprisoned without trial as well as the witnesses who saw the army’s unprovoked criminal behaviour.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely,

Massoud Shadjareh