Days after resignation, Buratai, others face trials at ICC over human rights cases

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Nigerian former army chief, Tukur Buratai will soon face trial at the International Criminal Court, the court has confirmed.

The former army chief is to face trial alongside former Chief of Defence Chief, General Abayomi Olonisakin; former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas; and former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar over several cases of human rights and alleged abuse of office.

In a mail sent to SaharaReporters on Friday, ICC official, Fadi El Abdallah confirmed the report and directed SaharaReporters to contact its prosecutor for more details on the trial and prosecution of the former military chiefs.

Immediately after the announcement of their resignation, many Nigerians demanded the probe and trial of Buratai, and the other service chiefs.

Nigerians particularly said the army chief, Buratai, and his colleagues must appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC), The Hague, Netherlands, to answer for several massacres in the country under their watch with the most recent being October 2020 Lekki shooting, where a disputable number of civilian protesters were killed and injured.

Another incident mentioned is the Zaria massacre which was carried out by the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State, on 12 December 2015, against Shia Muslims, mostly members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.

At least 348 civilians were reportedly killed, with 347 bodies allegedly secretly buried by the army in a mass grave.

The Kaduna State government in April 2016 said 347 corpses were given a mass burial at the Mando cemetery after what they claimed was a clash between soldiers and members of the Shiite’s sect in the state.

The Secretary to the Kaduna State Government, Mallam Balarabe Lawal, who said this when he appeared before a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, added that the corpses were given a mass burial in a grave on 14 December 2015, in a cemetery along Mando/ Zaria Road.

According to the SSG, a total of 191 unknown corpses were recovered from the Army Depot in Zaria and another batch of 156 corpses was recovered from the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Shika.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday appointed new service chiefs, finally letting go of the four military chiefs. Buhari had on July 13, 2015, appointed Olonisakin, Buratai, Ibas, and Abubakar.

Nigerians on social media had noted that it was not enough that Buratai and other military chiefs were replaced. They said they must appear before the ICC, Hague to answer for criminal charges against them while in office.

Also, on Thursday, the Concerned Nigerians Group confirmed that it had dragged Buratai to the ICC on human rights’ violation and crimes against humanity by the army during his tenure.

The group in a letter on Thursday by its Convener, Deji Adeyanju, had asked the ICC to investigate, arrest and prosecute Buratai to serve as a deterrent to others who have made it a point of duty to indiscriminately abuse citizens’ human rights in the country.

The letter addressed to Fatou Bensouda, the court’s Chief Prosecutor had partly read, “We write to call on the ICC and all lovers of democracy and human rights in the world to immediately investigate, arrest and prosecutez Buratai who was just relieved of his duty as Chief of Army Staff for crimes against humanity and the Nigerian people.

“It will be recalled that sometimes in 2015, Lieutenant General Buratai (Rtd) ordered members of the Nigerian army to kill over 300 defenceless Nigerian Shiite Muslims on the unjustifiable grounds that they ‘touched a general’s chest’. That event has been appropriately tagged the Zaira massacre and it has further worsened the insecurity situation in Nigeria. Shortly thereafter, Lieutenant Buratai (Rtd) ordered the Nigerian soldiers to kill hundreds of Nigerian citizens of South-Eastern extraction, in the guise of searching for members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

“It is particularly noteworthy to mention that as at the time Buratai ordered the massacre of IPOB members, the group had not been proscribed by the Nigeria Government. Additionally, we have been able to gather from different independent sources that Buratai personally ordered the killing of the innocent protesters at Lekki toll gate, Lagos, on 20 October 2020.

“It is based on the foregoing, among other human rights abuses, that we call on the International Criminal Court and friends of Nigeria to urgently investigate, arrest and prosecute Buratai to serve as a deterrent to members of the Nigerian Armed Forces and their civilian collaborators who have made it a point of duty to indiscriminately abuse citizens’ human rights.”

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