Civil Society Groups Call on ICC Prosecutor to Investigate Military Violence in the Niger Delta

For Immediate Release

Justice in Nigeria Now
Contact: 
Elias Courson (510) 813-6789
Sandy Cioffi (206) 612-0684

Civil Society Groups Call on ICC Prosecutor to Investigate Military Violence in the Niger Delta

THE HAGUE - As
military attacks continue in the Niger Delta’s oil producing Gbaramatu
Kingdom, environmental and human rights groups call for an immediate
investigation by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Office of the
Prosecutor of those responsible. 

“This
appears to be a systematic and widespread campaign of violence against
its own citizens by the Armed Forces of the Nigerian government,” Says
Sandy Cioffi Director of Sweet Crude.  Reports suggest that thousands of innocent civilians may be dead as a result.
On
Wednesday, May 13, the Nigerian military Joint Task Force (JTF)
commenced the land, water and aerial bombardment of a large area in the
Niger Delta called the Gbaramatu Kingdom that includes the villages of
Oporoza, Kurutie, Kunukunuma, Kokodiagbene, Okerenkoko, Azama,
Benikurukuru and Ubefan, under the guise of attacking a MEND militant
Camp.
“We
in the human rights and independent media community are gravely
concerned that the military is not allowing access to humanitarian aid
organizations, human rights groups or journalists,” Cioffi said
Residents
of the villages and those visiting the area for a festival on the day
the bombing began were forced to flee their homes and villages. They
are hiding in the bush and do not have adequate food or medical
supplies. According to Elias Courson, Rotary World Peace Fellow at UC
Berkeley the military has secured the area. Innocent civilians cannot
get out of the secured zone and are facing starvation.  
“The
ICC office of the Prosecutor must investigate all parties that may be
responsible for this bloodshed including General Sarkin Bello and
President Yar'Adua.”  Courson said.  
Together
Justice In Nigeria Now, TransAfrica Forum, Oil Change International,
Rainforest Action Network, Global Exchange, Communities for a Better
Environment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Center for
Third World Organizing, Crude Accountability, CounterCorp, the
filmmakers of Sweet Crude, The Borneo Project, The Sustainable
Energy and Economy Network, Foreign Policy in Focus and University of
KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project
urged the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor to use its power to
investigate those responsible for these crimes against humanity,
including Brigadier General Sarkin Bello who is reportedly in command
of the JTF's operations today. Questions regarding President Yar'Adua's
involvement must also be investigated. 
Full letter
International Criminal Court
Office of the Prosecutor
Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo
Post Office Box 19519
2500 CM The Hague
The Netherlands
Also sent by email to otp.informationdesk@icc-cpi.int
Also sent by fax to +31 70 515 85 55
May 19, 2009
Dear Mr. Moreno Ocampo:
The
organizations listed below write to draw your urgent attention to the
unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gbaramatu Kingdom in the Niger Delta
region of Nigeria. We request that the Office of the Prosecutor open an
immediate investigation into those responsible for what appears to be a
systematic and widespread campaign of violence against civilians by the
Armed Forces of the Nigerian government.
On
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 the Nigerian military Joint Task Force (JTF)
commenced the land, water and aerial bombardment of a large area in
Gbaramatu Kingdom that includes the villages of Oporoza, Kurutie,
Kunukunuma, Kokodiagbene, Okerenkoko, Azama, Benikurukuru and Ubefan,
under the guise of attacking a MEND militant Camp. Residents of the
villages and those visiting for a festival on the day the bombing began
were forced to flee their homes and villages. They are hiding in the
bush and do not have adequate food or medical supplies. The JTF has not
allowed humanitarian aid groups or journalists into the area.  As of
today the coordinated aerial and ground attacks by the JTF and mass
starvation continues. Reports suggest that thousands of innocent
civilians are dead already. Reports also suggest that this was a well
planned attack with the possible collusion of State government
officials. 
Together
the human rights and environmental organizations listed below urge the
ICC's Office of the Prosecutor to use its power to investigate and
prosecute those responsible for these crimes against humanity,
including Brigadier General Sarkin Bello who is reportedly in command
of the JTF's operations today. Questions regarding President Yar'Adua's
involvement must also be investigated. 
The
killings in the Delta today can be traced back to similar massacres in
1990 in Umecheum, in Ogoni led by Major Gen Paul Okuntimo in the mid
1990's, and the 1999 massacre in Odi under the command of Col
Agbabiaka. To-date no investigation of previous massacres has been
undertaken, although each was well documented by the international NGO
community, including Human Rights Watch. 
The
Nigerian military must be made aware that it cannot act with impunity.
We respectfully request your attention and investigation. Your interest
and involvement in this matter has the potential to help save lives in
the oil rich regions of the Niger Delta now and in the future. 
Sincerely,
Imani Countess for TransAfrica Forum
Patrick Bond for the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project
Sandy Cioffi for Sweet Crude
Jessica Lawrence for The Borneo Project
Laura Livoti for Justice in Nigeria Now
Danielle Mahonnes for the Center for Third World Organizing
Kirsten Moller for Global Exchange
Michelle Kinman for Crude Accountability
Steve Kretzmann for Oil Change International
John Wilner for CounterCorp
Emira Woods for Foreign Policy In Focus
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