Syria Conflict: Russian President, Putin Cancels Visit To France

Vladimir Putin, Russia, France, Syria CrisisRussia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has halted his scheduled visit to France amid a row over the conflict in Syria.

Mr Putin was due to meet French President, Francois Hollande as well as commission a new Orthodox church later in October.

The cancelled visit was a fall out of President Hollande’s statement that talks at his meeting with Mr Putin would be confined to Syria.

The French President had proposed that Russia could face war crimes charges over its bombardment of Syria’s city of Aleppo.

He told French TV prosecutions over Syria could take place in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“These are people who today are the victims of war crimes.

“Those that commit these acts will have to face up to their responsibility, including in the ICC,” Hollande said.

Human Rights Abuses: ICC Probes Nigerian Army, Boko Haram

boko haramThe International Criminal Court has started the process of investigating alleged human rights abuses by the Nigerian military.

The court will also study cases of abuse by the Boko Haram sect.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the military of illegal killings and incarceration.

In the meantime, the federal government says it is committed to upholding the highest standards of human rights in the conduct of all international affairs, including counter-insurgency operations.

The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami explains the Nigerian Army has conducted its operations in the north east of the country in a highly professional manner while imbibing best practices.

Zakzaky’s Lawyers Withdraw Appearance Before Commission Of Inquiry

ZakzakyThe team of lawyers representing the Islamic Movement in Nigeria before the Commission of Inquiry have withdrawn their appearance before the Commission.

Addressing reporters on Tuesday, a member of the legal team, Festus Okoye, said that their inability to have access to their client and leader of the movement, Sheik Ibraheem El- Zakzaky in detention, informed their reason to discontinue their appearance before the Commission.

He explained the frustration they had encountered in their effort to have access to El-Zakzaky, who is currently being detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) in Abuja.

Mr Okoye said that all attempts made severally to meet with their client in order to get briefing from him was frustrated by the Police and DSS in spite of the assurances given to them earlier to meet with him.

While condemning the action of the DSS and Federal Government, the lawyer pointed out that the continuous detention of El Zakzaky and his wife without charging them to court, violates their fundamental rights to fair hearing and justice.

According to Mr Okoye, the legal team representing the Movement would not participate in a pre-determined position and agenda against their client and the group and neither will they continue to represent a client, whose whereabouts are shrouded in secrecy.

On her part, one of the daughters of El-Zakzaky condemned the continuous detention of her parents and other members of the Movement.

Mrs Suhaila Ibraheem expressed dismay that the DSS could still arrest and detain her parents after soldiers unjustly shot and killed several members of the Movement at their residence in Zaria.

At another press conference, members of the Islamic Movement said that they had petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, over the continuous detention of El Zakzaky by the DSS as well as other members currently in various detention facilities across the country.

The members, through their spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, noted that by the continuous detention of their leader and other members, the Nigerian government had waged an open war on the Movement and its leadership with the intent to exterminate them.

With barely a week left for the Commission of Inquiry to conclude its assignment, the Shiites are insisting that until they have access to their leader in order to ascertain his true state of health, they will not appear before the Commission.

This is in view that he is the custodian of the property and activities of the Movement and only him can give the express permission for them to appear.

The Commission of Inquiry was set up by the Kaduna State Government to investigate the violent clash between the group and soldiers in Zaria on December 12, 2015.

Shiites Seek ICC’s Intervention Over Leader’s Detention

El-Zakzaky International-Criminal-Court interventionThe Islamic Movement In Nigeria has petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over the continuous detention of its leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

El-Zakzaky is being detained by the Department of State Services (DSS).

In the petition, the Shiites also sought the ICC’s intervention in the release of other members currently in various detention facilities across Nigeria.

‘An Open War’

Addressing a news conference in Kaduna on Monday, the Shiite members through their spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, condemned the continuous detention of El-Zakzaky 100 days after he was arrested by soldiers during the December 12, 2015, violent clash between members of the movement and soldiers in Zaria.

They stated that by the continuous detention of their leader and other members, the Nigerian government had waged an open war on the movement and its leadership with the intent to exterminate them.

According to them, the unlawful detention of hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria at the Kaduna Central Prison and several other undisclosed detention centres across the country, showed that they would not get justice from the Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State government to investigate the incident.

They also claimed that since the attack, which took place 100 days ago, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and its leadership have been further subjected to targeted, unwarranted and vicious attack by the Kaduna State government, the military, the police and some hired and hack writers engaged by some faceless individuals to attack the leadership and its members.

They lamented that all efforts made by their legal team led by Mr Femi Falana and Mr Festus Okoye to see El-Zakzaky in detention at the DSS facility in Abuja for the purposes of submitting memorandum to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry had been fruitless.

The Shiites further explained that they had completely lost confidence in the Kaduna Judicial Commission of Inquiry for its inability to enforce their orders to the security forces to allow them access to Shiekh Zakzaky.

Former Ivory Coast President Gbagbo Denies War Crimes

Ivory CoastFormer President Laurent Gbagbo has denied the charges relating to Ivory Coast’s civil conflict that erupted after he lost elections in 2010.

Mr Gbagbo made the disclaimer on Thursday when he appeared at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the opening of his war crimes trial.

Gbagbo is the first former head of state to stand trial at the court in The Hague, and is facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

ICC Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, accused Mr Gbagbo of orchestrating a ‘campaign of violence’.

She said that the trial was aimed to ‘uncover the truth’ as both Mr Gbagbo and his co-accused, former militia leader, Charles Ble Goude, said they were innocent.

The former President allegedly sparked a crisis in Ivory Coast after he refused to step down following his loss to Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 presidential poll.

At least 3,000 people were reportedly killed in the civil conflict that ensued.

Mass Looting: Femi Falana Responds To Okonjo-Iweala’s Statement

Okonjo-Iweala-Femi-FalanaA human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, pushing for the prosecution of corrupt government officials in Nigeria has decried what he called an attack on his person by Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, after he lodged a request for investigation of former public officers with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In a response to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s statement, Mr Falana said he was being attacked by the former Minister for having the temerity to request the ICC to investigate the crimes against humanity committed by some former public officers who bear full responsibility for the atrocities perpetrated by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

The Lagos State based lawyer had requested for investigation into the allegations of crimes against humanity committed by serving and retired military officers and their civilian accomplices.

He claimed that the government officials had diverted over $8 billion earmarked for the procurement of arms and armament for counter insurgency operations.

“I argued that the suspects who aided and abetted the dreaded Boko Haram sect in the barbaric killing of over 25 soldiers and civilians including children and the displacement of two million people ought to be prosecuted at the ICC.

“Her [Okojo-Iweala] baseless attack is not unusual as she is always quick to deflect criticisms by accusing anyone seeking to hold her to account for her appalling records in government of ulterior political motives,” Mr Falana stated.

He further claimed that when Professor Chukwuma Soludo alleged that about N30 trillion could not be accounted for under Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s watch he was described as “an embittered loser in the Nigerian political space”.

“When Comrade Adams Oshiomole questioned the illegal withdrawal of $2 billion from the Excess Crude Account, he was accused of having animus towards her because she had blocked Edo State from obtaining a loan. Therefore, instead of exchanging vulgar abuse with the former Minister I shall respond to the diversionary allegations which lacerated her response and the attempt to extricate herself from the mass looting of the commonwealth under her watch,” he explained..

The lawyer further took a swipe on the former Minister saying that “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has continued to give the erroneous impression that she rendered selfless service to the nation. But while her colleagues who served as Ministers under President Olusegun Obasanjo were paid their salaries and allowances in the local currency she received hers in dollars despite a judgment of the Court of Appeal which had declared the payment illegal and unconstitutional in the case of Fawehinmi v The President (2007) 14 NWLR (Pt 1054) 275.

“In order to weep up sentiments Dr. Okonjo-Iweala referred to the unfortunate kidnap of her 84-year mother, two years ago. But it is public knowledge that the lumpen elements involved in the kidnap were arrested by the Lagos State Police Command,” he said.

Mr Falana further reiterated that his petitions to the anti-graft agencies and the Special Prosecutor of the ICC were anchored on law and facts without personal interest.

He stated that it was done to further push the ongoing battle to end impunity and retrieve the looted wealth of the nation from corrupt elements and institutions.

See full text of Mr Femi Falana’s response to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s earlier statement below. 
MASS LOOTING: FEMI FALANA’S REJOINDER TO DR. NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA’S REPONSE TO ICC PETITION

In my application to the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week, I requested for investigation into the allegations of crimes against humanity committed by serving and retired military officers and their civilian accomplices. Having diverted over $8 billion earmarked for the procurement of arms and armament for counter insurgency operations I argued that the suspects who aided and abetted the dreaded Boko Haram sect in the barbaric killing of over 25 soldiers and civilians including children and the displacement of 2 million people ought to be prosecuted at the ICC. However, for having the temerity to request the ICC to investigate the crimes against humanity committed by some former public officers who bear full responsibility for the atrocities perpetrated by the terrorist group Dr. Okonjo-Iweala resorted to the scurrilous attack of my person.

Her baseless attack is not unusual as she is always quick to deflect criticisms by accusing anyone seeking to hold her to account for her appalling records in government of ulterior political motives. When Professor Chukwuma Soludo alleged that about N30 trillion could not be accounted for under her watch he was described as “an embittered loser in the Nigerian political space.” When Comrade Adams Oshiomole questioned the illegal withdrawal of $2 billion from the Excess Crude Account, he was accused of having animus towards her because she had blocked Edo State from obtaining a loan. Therefore, instead of exchanging vulgar abuse with the former Minister I shall respond to the diversionary allegations which lacerated her response and the attempt to extricate herself from the mass looting of the commonwealth under her watch.

The claim that I am unfamiliar with the mandate of the ICC shows that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has not been following the practice of the court and its active and robust approach to its mandates, in particular with regard to the investigation of crimes in Darfur, the warrant of arrest for Joseph Kony (Uganda), and the warrant of arrest for Ahmad Harun, (Sudan). In many decided cases, the ICC has expanded its mandate to humanitarian issues, aimed at forestalling and impeding the perpetration of crimes which cause gross human rights abuse. There is absolutely nothing in the Rome Statute of the ICC to suggest that the court cannot address impunity for enormous financial crimes (and its crippling impact) which took place while Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was the Finance Minister and the Coordinating Minister of the economy.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s claim that I own the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) is far-fetched and laughable. A simple google search would have shown her that while I am one of the legal advisers of the organization, there are other very distinguished lawyers and academics of international repute on SERAP’s board. Her claim that SERAP is ‘discredit’ is the exact opposite of reckless characterization because it is an organization that has won national and international recognitions—including nomination for the UN civil society award; the Ford Foundation Jubilee Transparency Award; and the Wole Soyinka Anti-Corruption Defender Award.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala also claimed that my petition against her to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) “were lacking in credibility”, without any substantiation of what this means or specific rebuttal of the allegations contained in that petition. She has however not denied the accuracy of the claims in my petition. Whereas the former Finance Minister had insisted that only $500 million was recovered from the Abacha loot my petition detailed the recovery of $4 billion. As she could not challenge my claim Dr. Okonjo-Iweala now says that the $500 million was the amount recovered while she was the Minister of Finance under President Obasanjo. In making that claim she did not take cognizance of her recent statement that while she gave out $322 million to Col. Dasuki the sum of $700 million had been set aside for development. From her own account, over $1 billion was recovered from the loot under the Jonathan regime when she was coordinating the economy.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala should have also provided further explanations as to why a substantial part of the Abacha loot was criminally diverted under her watch, especially in light of her confessional statement that she transferred $322m from the Abacha loot to former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, to prosecute the war on terror. Apart from the said $322m, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala also released £5.5m to Dasuki. Even on this ground alone, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala cannot plausibly claim not to have anything to do with the arms procurement scandal. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s excuse that the said $322m was released due to the urgency of the crisis in the North-East region is untenable having regard to the fact that former President Jonathan had sought the approval of the National Assembly to take a loan of $1bn to equip the armed forces to fight insurgency. Therefore, her self-induced urgency is not a justification for spending public funds without appropriation.
In the course of my defending several military officers and soldiers who were charged before court-martial for demanding weapons to fight the terrorists I confirmed that the $1 billion loan for arms procurement. I was compelled to request Dr. Okonjo-Iweala for an inventory of the military equipment purchased with the $1 billion loan. The requested inventory was made available to me as the weapons were not purchased.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has continued to give the erroneous impression that she rendered selfless service to the nation. But while her colleagues who served as Ministers under President Olusegun Obasanjo were paid their salaries and allowances in the local currency she received hers in dollars despite a judgment of the Court of Appeal which had declared the payment illegal and unconstitutional in the case of Fawehinmi v The President (2007) 14 NWLR (Pt 1054) 275. In order to weep up sentiments Dr. Okonjo-Iweala referred to the unfortunate kidnap of her 84-year mother, two years ago. But it is public knowledge that the lumpen elements involved in the kidnap were arrested by the Lagos State Police Command. From the report of police investigation the kidnappers were palace guards who were inspired by sheer avarice. In fact, they were arrested by the Police following the disagreement over the sharing of the N12 million ransom paid to them for the criminal enterprise.

The most ludicrous of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala sweeping and jejune allegation is that some “corrupt elements” are using me as a tool. Although the allegation is without factual support it is illogical, to say the least. My request that the disbursement of the Abacha loot be investigated is further buttressed by the fact that the $500m Dr. Okonjo-Iweala claimed was spent on development projects was also not appropriated by the National Assembly, contrary to constitutional provisions. However, I have asked the EFCC to discountenance the 700-page report of the World Bank which has listed some phantom projects executed with the $500 million.

In the Appropriation Act of 2011, the sum of N245 billion was budgeted for fuel subsidy. But at the end of the year, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had authorized the illegal payment of about N2.5 trillion to a cabal of fuel importers. As usual, she washed off her hands like Pontius Pilate. In order to unearth the monumental fraud I petitioned the EFCC and gave oral testimony before the House of Representatives Committee which separately investigated it. In the same vein, I have just asked the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation under the Freedom of Information Act to provide information on the failure of the NNPC to pay into the Federation Account the sum of $9.7 billion out of the $11.8 billion dividends paid by NLNG from 2004-2014. I have equally demanded information from the NEITI over its claim that the NNPC and some oil companies are indebted to the Federal Government to the tune of $19.1 billion.

Finally, let me make it abundantly clear that my petitions to the anti graft agencies and the Special Prosecutor of the ICC were anchored on law and facts as there is nothing personal in the ongoing battle to end impunity and retrieve the looted wealth of the nation from corrupt elements and institutions. It is my belief that the recovered loot should be channeled towards job creation and infrastructural development. Therefore, all hands should be on deck to ensure that the recovered loot is not criminally diverted by another set of looters .

Okonjo-Iweala Dismisses Falana’s Call For Her Prosecution

Okonjo-IwealaFormer Minister of Finance in Nigeria, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has reacted to the call by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana for her arrest and prosecution.

Mr Falana had approached the International Criminal Court (ICC) demanding the trial of the former minister for alleged involvement in the $2.1 billion arms deal.

Now, the former minister through her Media Adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu, has reacted to the position held by Mr Falana.

Here are details of her response:

Okonjo-IwealaOkonjo-IwealaOkonjo-Iweala Okonjo-Iweala

 

ICC To Probe Possible War Crimes In Russia-Georgia Conflict

icc on war crimesThe International Criminal Court (ICC) is set to investigate Russian and Georgian forces over possible war crimes.

The investigation relates to a five-day conflict in 2008 centred on South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia.

ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said she has evidence suggesting South Ossetian forces killed up to 113 ethnic Georgian civilians, and both sides killed peacekeepers.

She also said Russian forces may have participated in the killing of civilians.

The war began with an operation by Georgia, which hoped to seize back South Ossetia. But Russian troops quickly retook the area and pushed deeper into Georgian territory, stopping short of the capital, Tbilisi.

Former Rebel Leader, Bosco Ntaganda Appears Before ICC

NtagandaThe war crimes trial of former Congolese rebel leader, Bosco Ntaganda, started on Wednesday at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague.

He denied all 18 charges which include murder, rape and the recruitment of child soldiers.

More than 2,000 victims have been cleared to take part in the trial, including former child soldiers who would be called as witnesses.

General Ntaganda fought for different rebel groups as well as the Congolese army.

The 41-year-old is accused of killing at least 800 civilians during separate attacks on a number of villages between 2002 and 2003.

He is also accused of raping girl soldiers and keeping them as sex slaves.

In 2013, he handed himself in at the US embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

He had evaded capture for seven years after the ICC first issued warrants for his arrest.

General Ntaganda was part of the Union of Congolese Patriots rebel group, led by Thomas Lubanga, who in 2014, became the only person convicted by the ICC.

He was one of the leaders of the M23 rebel movement, which had fought government troops until signing a peace deal in 2013.

Eastern DR Congo had suffered two decades of violence linked to ethnic rivalries and competition for the control of the area’s rich mineral resources.

The unrest began when some of the ethnic Hutu militants accused of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda fled into DR Congo.

Gaddafi’s Son Sentenced To Death

GaddafiA Libyan court passed a death sentence in absentia on Muammar Gaddafi’s most prominent son, Saif al-Islam, on Tuesday for war crimes and acts to crush peaceful protests during the country’s 2011 revolution that ended his father’s rule.

The court also sentenced to death by firing squad eight other former Gaddafi regime officials including his former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi and ex-prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, on the same charges,

The Chief Investigator at the Tripoli State Prosecutor’s office, Sadiq al-Sur, said this.

He told a news conference carried by al-Nabaa television that eight other ex-officials received life sentences and seven were given jail terms of 12 years each. Four were acquitted. All but Saif al-Islam are in judicial custody.

The verdict on al-Islam was passed in absentia in Tripoli since he has been held for four years by a former rebel group in the Zintan region beyond central government control.

The trial began in April 2014 before fighting between rival factions in Tripoli ripped Libya apart in a power struggle which has produced two governments competing for central authority.

The sentences can be appealed and must be confirmed by Libya’s highest court.

The International Criminal Court and rights groups say they worry about the fairness and competence of Libya’s judicial system, although it won the right in 2013 to try Senussi at home instead of at the ICC in The Hague.

Mugabe Tackles West In AU Summit Closing Comments

Robert-Mugabe-AU-SummitThe President of Zimbabwe and African Union Chairman, Robert Mugabe, made Africa’s relations with the west subject of his comments at the closing session of the 25th African Union summit, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

At a press conference on Monday, President  Mugabe warned on the continent’s seemingly blind perception of western countries, and non-governmental organisations, such as the International Criminal Court.

He said those who signed the French treaty now regret their decision.

President Mugabe further stated that the west had continued to take advantage of African countries, urging African countries to break loose from the grip.

The Zimbabwean President is known for his speeches against western influence on African countries.

Fruitful Interactions

According to him, African leaders had had fruitful interactions on the theme of the summit, and on issues of peace and security.

The AU chairman reaffirmed the need to fast track gender parity in all socio-economic and political endeavour.

He also said the union needed to revolutionise the way it conducted its business, in line with international best practices.

“The Heads of State and government here present have collectively adopted and fully endorsed the first 10-year implementation plan of agenda 2063. We have committed ourselves to commence the implementation of the flagship projects to spur economic growth and prosperity in Africa.

“These include enabling and game changing projects among which are the continental free trade area, the high speed train, the African Center for Disease Control and the Pan African University,” President Mugabe stated.

Channels Television’s correspondent at the Summit, Amarachi Ubani, said Mr Mugabe spoke briefly about the leaders’ thoughts on peace and security on the continent, saying that the troubling state of peace took priority, urging for warring parties to dialogue.

The Zimbabwean President condemned acts of terrorism. “The AU has decided to deal with it collectively, as that is the only way it can be effectively done,” he said.

The leaders in the AU commission will assess the implementation of decisions reached in January.

Responding to the questions about the union’s position on the warrant of arrest issued by International Criminal Court (ICC) on the President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said the AU was an organisation and not a country, as such it is not a signatory to the ICC or any other international body.

“The ICC has state parties and we are not a state party,” she said.

Mr Al-Bashir had cut short his participation in the 25th Assembly of Heads of State and government of the African Union after a South African court issued a statement, asking him not to leave South Africa until it decides whether he should be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which have charged him with war crimes and genocide or not.

He left the African Union Summit for Khartoum, flying out of a military base in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria hours before the Pretoria High Court’s ruling.

 

Xenophobic Attacks: Reps Want Compensation For Nigerian Victims

Nigerian Lawmakers- Xenophobic AttackThe House of Representatives has called on the South African government to begin plans for adequate compensation for Nigerian victims of the xenophobic attacks.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, made the call while meeting with the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Louis Mnguni, in Abuja the Federal Capital Territory on Wednesday.

The lawmakers believe it is not enough to recall Nigeria’s envoy or go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) but it would be proper to compensate those who suffered losses as a result of the violence.

Meanwhile, former Foreign Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi has also condemned the Xenophobic attacks on Africans and other foreign nationals, calling on the Nigerian government to remind the South African government of a possible consequence on their investments in Nigeria if such attacks continued.

Nigeria’s Consul General in South Africa, Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke, also noted that Eight Nigerians had so far indicated interest in returning home due to the nationalistic attacks.

She told Channels Television that “the Nigerian Mission is already working with them to facilitate their journey back home”.

In a joint raid by the Police and Army on a Johannesburg hostel on Wednesday, the South African authorities arrested 11 men suspected of involvement in violence against immigrants.