Bruce Fein, the American counsel for the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has filed a petition against the Director-General of Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Magaji Bichi, to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Fein, an international lawyer and spokesperson for Kanu, addressed the petition to Karim Khan, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in The Hague.
The international lawyer asked the ICC to charge the head of Nigeria’s secret police with conspiracy, genocide, and crimes against humanity against Biafrans and their leader Nnamdi Kanu.
He alleged that Bichi knowingly part participated in the “protracted and systematic murder, extermination, starvation, denial of necessary medical care, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, rape, persecution based on political, religious, and ethnic grounds, industrial-scale theft of property, and protracted arbitrary detention and torture of Biafran leader Nnamdi Kanu”.
Fein said the Nigerian Government, after more than ten months of Kanu’s arbitrary detention, has yet to proffer a crumb of evidence implicating him in terrorism or violence.
“In October 2020, five human rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council asked President (Muhammadu) Buhari within 60 days to submit evidence of Mr. Kanu’s terrorism. Mr. Buhari sneered at the overture, probably reflecting, ‘Being a tyrant means you never need to obey the law,’” part of the document obtained by SaharaReporters on Tuesday said.
Kanu is being held by the Department of State Services (DSS) at its headquarters in Abuja, after the Nigerian government repatriated him from Kenya in June 2021, an action his lawyers termed “illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional extradition”.
He is standing trial on charges bordering on treasonable felony and terrorism before the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In the document, Fein further said, “In violation of Article 36, the British High Commissioner has been denied access to Nnamdi Kanu despite repeated requests of Nigerian authorities by both persons.
“Nigerian authorities have concealed material facts about Nnamdi Kanu’s kidnapping, torture, and extraordinary rendition in hiding behind a concocted cover story by Attorney General Malami that he was captured with the assistance of INTERPOL.
“For more than ten months, Nnamdi Kanu has been detained by Defendant Bichi in solitary confinement in extremely confined quarters and denied necessary medical care and legal counsel without a trial. The harsh conditions under which Nnamdi Kanu is subsisting satisfy the definition of torture under the Convention Against Torture, Article 1, paragraph 1. “Among other things, Defendant Bichi had withheld necessary and urgent medical care from Nnamdi Kanu. Defendant Bichi has drawn Nnamdi Kanu’s blood at least 21 times with no indicated medical reasons. Defendant Bichi has starved Nnamdi Kanu. Defendant Bichi has blocked visits from Nnamdi Kanu’s family.
“Defendant Bichi has also repeatedly prevented Nnamdi Kanu from meeting with his counsel of choice in violation of court orders or otherwise. Defendant Bichi has prohibited Nnamdi’s counsel from reading and writing materials necessary to prepare an adequate defense. Defendant Bichi has systematically violated confidential attorney-client communications between Nnamdi Kanu and his lawyers.
“The theory of Nnamdi Kanu’s indeterminate detention without trial is that Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is a terrorist organization, and that IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu has incited Biafrans to commit terrorist acts with broadcasts on Radio Biafra from London, UK. No evidence has been forthcoming in ten months to support the theory.
“In September 2017, IPOB was proscribed as a terrorist organization by a Nigerian court in an ex parte proceeding without notice or an opportunity to respond to the fact-free terrorism edict of co-conspirator Muhammadu Buhari. IPOB’s proscription has been denounced by five human rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council in a letter to a co-conspirator.
“Buhari on October 1, 2020: Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceable assembly and of association; and, Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.
“Among other things, the five human rights experts respectfully urged co-conspirator Buhari ‘to reconsider the proscription of IPOB as a terrorist group and address the legal concerns on the regulation of assembly, freedom of expression, and due process outlined in this communication.’”
Fein noted that experts had reminded Buhari that, “[p]ursuing minority rights protection or the recognition of the existence of a minority…or even calls for self-determination do not on their own amount to terrorist activities.”
“Indeed, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 49/151 reaffirmed ‘the importance of the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination…,’ a right fortified by Article 1 (1) of the ICCPR,” the document said.
According to the petition, the experts asked that within 60 days Buhari should detailed information about the rationale and justification for designating IPOB as a terrorist group and its activities as unlawful, among other things.
Fein noted that “nearly 20 months have elapsed since that request and co-conspirator Buhari has yet to reference any law or facts justifying IPOB’s proscription as a terrorist group”.
“No other country in the world has proscribed IPOB despite the sleepless lobbying of Nigeria.
“Knowing that proof of Nnamdi Kanu’s guilt is impossible, President Buhari directly or through agents commanded DSS Director-General Bichi to detain and torture Nnamdi Kanu without a trial indefinitely and to block access to counsel of his choice,” he said.
He, however, concluded the petition, saying, “There is a reasonable basis to conclude that DSS Director-General Yusuf Magaji Bichi is guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity as defined in Articles 6 and 7 of the Rome Statute by arbitrarily detaining and torturing Nnamdi Kanu indefinitely without a trial and denying him access to counsel of his choice as part of an ongoing scheme to destroy or persecute Biafrans in Nigeria because of their ethnicity, religion, or political opinion.
“The Chief Prosecutor has a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation of DSS Director-General Bichi for genocide and crimes against humanity and should submit to the Pre-Trial Chamber a request for such authorization under Article 15, paragraph 3 of the Rome Statute.”