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2019 general elections will be free, fair, Buhari assures at ICC

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday assured the international community that the 2019 General elections will be free, fair and peaceful.

He has also assured that the kind of violence that characterised the 2011 elections will not happen under his watch.

President Buhari gave this assurance in his keynote address at the Solemn Hearing to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the ICC, at The Hague.

“Let me intimate you that Nigeria is preparing to conduct general elections in 2019.

“Contrary to the tragic incidents that characterised the 2011 general elections in Nigeria which necessitated preliminary investigations by the International Criminal Court, I assure you that all hands are on deck to prevent any recurrence of such tragic incidents.

“We shall do everything possible to ensure that Nigeria witnesses the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections in 2019,” he said.

The President appealed to member states to support ICC with jurisdiction over serious cases of corruption and illicit financial flows by state actors.

According to him, “A strong and effective ICC has the potential to send a powerful message about the international community’s commitment to accountability, a message that will be heard by both victims and perpetrators.

“Equally, a strong and effective ICC demonstrates the international community’s commitment to the rule of law.

“A strong and effective ICC can also act as a catalyst for other justice efforts, expanding the reach of accountability.

“These could include serious cases of corruption by state actors that severely compromise the development efforts of countries and throw citizens into greater poverty.

“These could also include cases of illicit financial flows where countries are complicit and obstruct repatriation of stolen assets. As the African Union Champion on Anti-corruption, these are issues dear to my heart.”

President Buhari thanked the judges of the court for electing a Nigerian, Chile Eboe-Osuji, as President, saying that Nigeria was proud of him.

Buhari noted that the court was established 20 years ago as a global court, inspired by the Nuremberg trials of World War II war criminals, to hold people accountable for crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes of genocide and aggression.

He added that the ICC has given hope for justice to many by demanding strict adherence to the rules of international humanitarian law.

He described as alarming what he called, proliferation of the most serious crimes around the world, adding that the ICC, and all that it stands for, was now needed more than ever, in ways that were unforeseeable to its founders.

Buhari said that although the ICC may have been created at a time of optimism that it would not need to be utilised frequently, the increase in international crimes has only increased the court’s relevance.

The President said while limits on the ICC’s jurisdiction mean that it cannot presently act with regard to some of the dire crises of the day in states that are not parties, by acting where it can, the ICC reinforces the demand for justice far beyond its own cases.

President Buhari stated that Nigeria has cooperated with, and supported the court at all times, adding that the country had demonstrated by its full and transparent cooperation on matters on which it is being investigated and also in its several country statements at the sessions of the court.

“Our cooperation with the court is borne out of our strong belief in the respect for the rule of law and human rights, and in our firm commitment to the sanctity of fundamental freedoms at international and domestic levels, as ingrained in the objectives for establishing the court,” he added.

While admitting that the goals and responsibilities of the court are challenging and daunting, Buhari noted that with the cooperation of all, coupled with the high calibre of judges and staff of the court, the challenges are not insurmountable.

He therefore urged all states not to politicise the decisions of the court but to always bear in mind the rationale for its establishment in the first place.

“I urge all sates that have not yet done so to, as a matter of deliberate state policy, accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court so that it can become a universal treaty,” he added.

President Buhari is the only President invited to grace the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the ICC Rome Statute.

Over 25 high-level state officials, the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, O-Gon Kwon, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, ICC Registrar Peter Lewis, UN Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares, and other special guests, were in attendance.

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