By Ralph Madugu
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has accused the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr. Karim Khan, of “clearly playing a political game, and is prioritizing relations with the government of Nigeria.”
CAN made the accusation in a statement issued after the recent visit of the ICC prosecutor to Nigeria.
The statement, signed by the CAN President, Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, CAN General Secretary, Barr. Joseph Bade Daramola, and CAN Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Barr. Comfort Otera Chigbue, said the Association was disturbed about the recent visit of the ICC prosecutor, Mr. Karim Khan, to Nigeria.
It stated that despite all attempts by CAN in 2021 to engage with Mr. Khan’s office on behalf of Christian victims of religious violence in Nigeria, he failed to contact CAN before, during and after his recent visit, adding that the Association only found out about his visit in the media.
The statement read in part: “It appears that this prosecutor engages in in political games and is unwilling to engage with victims of atrocity, let alone Christian ones. He has disrespected victims, and we are obliged to speak out about this.”
According to CAN, the situation of Nigeria at the ICC had since December 2020 “been in limbo between the closing of the Preliminary Examination stage and the making of a request for leave to open and investigation.”
CAN added “There is a great deal of explaining to be done for this state of affairs.
“Yet, Mr Khan only met with members of the government of Nigeria, and seems not to have discussed this.
“We note that at least one of the individuals that he met has been identified to the Prosecutor’s office as a potential candidate for prosecution.”
The Christian organization expressed dismay that the word ‘victim’ only appeared twice in Mr. Khan’s statement and that both times, they were in “bland stock phrases,” which, according to CAN revealed that the Prosecutor was not interested in standing up for victims of atrocities, but is trying to “unburden himself of the Nigerian situation.”
CAN maintained that Mr. Khan’s statement said nothing about what he and his office had done in Nigeria since December 2020.
“How is it that Mr. Khan has been willing to leap-frog the situations of the Philippines and Venezuela over Nigeria, applying for leave to the Court’s judges to open investigations? These situations came under the Prosecutor’s radar years after Nigeria went into preliminary examination. How is it that Ukraine has jumped all the queue too?”
CAN further stated that, for years, the Christian community had borne the brunt of the religious violence in Nigeria, alleging that in a communication that was ignored by the Prosecutor, flaws were pointed in the approach taken by his predecessor in relation to Nigeria.
According to CAN, these flaws were the result of a profound misunderstanding of the role of religion in the violence that engulfed this country.
CAN reiterated that Mr. Khan’s statement also indicated a willingness to consider the Sahel-wide problem of Islamist terrorism.
“We have seen that the Islamists violence in Nigeria is indeed linked to what is going on in other countries, and there is a snowball effect going on. Our beloved country really is on the precipice.
“However, Mr. Khan cannot suggest that the wider Sahel situation be referred to the Court by the Security Council when in Nigeria he and his office ignore the religious mayhem being unleashed by armed Fulani herdsmen and Islamists bandits, and minimize the nature and scale of the religious persecution of Christians committed by Boko Haram.
“And of course, it is ironic that Mr. Khan and his office appear to have resources for Security Council referral of the Sahel situation, but not for Nigeria. “With due respect to Mr. Khan, his statement and conduct since coming to office present him as a Prosecutor seeking to shirk his responsibilities for investigating and prosecuting international crimes in Nigeria. He comes across as trying to avoid providing a modicum of satisfaction to the thousands upon thousands of victims in our country’s long running tragedy of murder and mayhem, exacerbated by governmental indifference, negligence and possibly even complicity,” the statement added.