Following a petition from Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided to probe the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other African citizens in South Africa.
This development was disclosed in a statement today by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni.
SERAP had in a petition dated April 23, 2015 and sent to the Court requested the Prosecutor Mrs. Fatou Bensouda to use her “good offices and position to investigate allegations of hate speech by the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, which has resulted in killing, violence and discrimination against Nigerians and other African citizens living in South Africa, as well as the complicity/negligence of the country’s law enforcement agencies to prevent these crimes against civilian population.”
In response, the ICC in a letter dated 28 April 2015, and signed by M.P. Dillon, Head of Information & Evidence Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor said, “The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court acknowledges receipt of your documents. This communication has been duly entered in the Communications Register of the Office. We will give consideration to this communication, as appropriate, in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. As soon as a decision is reached, we will inform you, in writing, and provide you with reasons for this decision.”
SERAP in its petition had urged Mrs Bensouda to “bring to justice anyone who is responsible for these international crimes prohibited under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
SERAP also said that it “considers the use of speech by the Zulu King to promote hatred and/or incite violence against non-nationals such as Nigerians, particularly in the media as a clear violation of the provisions of the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court.
“Grave statements by political leaders/prominent people that express discrimination and cause violence against non-nationals cannot be justified under any law. This hate speech generated fear and hatred that created the conditions for violence and discrimination against Nigerians and other African citizens. SERAP believes that this has given rise to individual criminal responsibility under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” the organisation said.
The organisation argued that, “the statement by the Zulu King amounts to a harmful form of expression which incites or otherwise promotes hatred, discrimination, violence and intolerance. We are seriously concerned that crimes against humanity are often accompanied or preceded by the kind of statement made by the Zulu King.”
“Once the climate of violence has been created, direct and public incitement to crimes builds on it, exacerbating the situation by further heating up passions and directing South Africans’ hatred towards non-nationals such as Nigerians. Hate speech by King Zulu is legally tied to contemporaneous, large-scale violence and inhumane and discriminatory treatment of Nigerians and other African citizens,” the organisation also argued.
The organisation also said that, “The statement by the Zulu King has contributed to a climate of fear, demonization and dehumanization of Nigerians and other African citizens, thus violating their human dignity through humiliation and expulsion from the human community. SERAP is seriously concerned that hate speech by the Zulu King amounts to crime against humanity of persecution and has directly contributed to an infringement of the right to life, equality and non-discrimination of Nigerians and other African citizens.”
“SERAP considers the statement by the Zulu King and the apparent complicity/negligence by the country’s law enforcement agencies to prevent the violence and discrimination as amounting to active encouragement of South African citizens to develop feelings of contempt for Nigerians and other African citizens; as amounting to incitement to violence and discrimination against Nigerians and other African citizens, and to mistreat them; and as amounting to an appeal for South African citizens to separate themselves from Nigerians and other African citizens,” the organisation further stressed.
“The statement by the Zulu King and the apparent complicity/negligence by the country’s law enforcement agencies to prevent the violence and discrimination has contributed to the level of persecution against Nigerians and other African citizens. According to Professor Bassiouni, persecution in this instance is “a state action leading to the infliction upon an individual of harassment, torment, oppression, or discriminatory measures, designed to or likely to produce physical or mental suffering or economic harm, because of the victims’ beliefs, views, or membership in a given identifiable group (such as non-nationals),” the organisation also said.