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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rights Group Urges ICC To Probe Recent Muslim-Christian Violence In Nigeria

RTTNews - A Lagos-based human rights group has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Netherlands to probe the recent Muslim-Christian violence that left more than 300 people dead in the central Nigerian city of Jos, said officials and news reports on Monday.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a petition to ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, requested him to order an investigation into the unlawful killings that took place during the recent religious violence in Jos.

The petition dated 20th January 2010 and signed by Femi Falana, the solicitor for SERAP, also urged Ocampo to investigate allegations of other crimes against humanity during the sectarian unrest in Jos. The group called for investigating claims that the army and police used excessive force to restore order in Jos.

The letter alleged that the Nigerian government failed to arrest and prosecute the suspects responsible for "the latest violence and previous outbreaks of deadly violence in Jos." The group said the Nigerian government "has shown itself to be too weak to act, contrary to its international legal obligations, including under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."

"Under Article 17 of the Rome Statute, the ICC is a court of last resort, expected to exercise its jurisdiction only if states themselves are unwilling or unable genuinely to investigate and prosecute international crimes, " the letter added.

The clashes broke out on 17th January in the Dutse-Uku district of Jos, the capital of Plateau state, after a Christian man reportedly accused his Muslim neighbor of encroaching upon his land. The dispute between the two neighbors thereafter blew up into a full-fledged religious clash that gradually swept across the Dogon Dutse, Kongo Russia and Duala Bukur districts.

The clashes continued unabated for several days until the Nigerian army regained control over Jos after enforcing a curfew in the city. Some 300 people were reportedly arrested in the following crack down. Though the official estimate kept the death toll at 326, several other reports claimed that at least 364 Muslims and 65 Christians were killed in the violence.

Such periodic outbursts of religious violence is frequent in Nigeria, the northern regions of which are predominantly Muslim with the South being dominated by Christians. The city of Jos lies in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt, where the majority of the population either follow traditional religions or are Christians.

Some 700 people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians in Jos during 2004, while rioting in September 2001 left at least 1,000 dead in the central Nigerian city. Over 500 others were killed in a similar outburst of religious violence in the city in November 2008.