A team of experts that advised on the next set of jurists for appointments into the War Crimes Tribunal (the International Criminal Court) has declared the Nigerian nominee, Justice Ishaq Bello as incompetent and having “a very limited knowledge” of the job.
They however stated that he met the requirements set out in the Rome Statute for election as a judge, but uncertain if the candidate could make a noteworthy contribution to the work of the ICC.
Justice Bello is the Chief Judge of the High Court of Federal Capital in Abuja.
He was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari in June as the Nigerian candidate to the Netherlands-based ICC.
But a panel that looked into the competence of candidates to serve on the court rated him at the bottom of 20 judges being considered for the role, according to a report of the panel being circulated in the social media.
The committee had in September outlined its criteria to determine the suitability of 20 nominees, out of which six judges will be elected at the 19th Session of the Assembly in December.
The advisory panel listed the parameters for becoming a judge of the ICC as follows:
• Highly qualified: the candidate excels in terms of the experience and knowledge about the Court and its jurisprudence; it is very likely that he/she would be able to make an important contribution to the work of the Court.
• Qualified: the candidate has some relevant experience and knowledge about the Court; he/she could contribute to the work of the Court.
• Only formally qualified: the candidate meets the requirements set out in the Rome Statute for election as a judge, but it is uncertain if the candidate could make a noteworthy contribution to the work of the Court.
• Not qualified: the candidate does not meet the formal requirements set out in the Rome Statute.
In their assessment Justice Bello was assessed as having “a very limited knowledge” of the workings of the ICC, hence is only formally qualified for appointment as judge of the Court.
“The Committee noted that, based on his answers to questions particularly regarding participation by victims and the functions of the Pre-Trial Chamber (but also other areas), the candidate appeared notably to have a very limited knowledge of the Rome Statute, the practices and procedures of the Court and its jurisprudence.
“Based on both his professional experience as well as his answers during the interview, and bearing in mind particularly his lack of detailed knowledge of the workings of the Court, the Committee concluded that the candidate was only formally qualified for appointment as judge of the International Criminal Court.”
The report, however, highlighted Bello’s extensive judicial experience in criminal proceedings, as well as his articulate and knowledgeable stance regarding criminal law and procedure at the national level.
Recall that Justice Bello is the high court Judge who in Abuja on 2017 handed down the controversial judgment in the 2005 extra-judicial murder of Apo Mechanic Village auto spare parts traders that sparked off violent protests in the FCT.
The FCT chief judge had sentenced two of the six police officers accused in the murder to death, while three others, including then Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), now an Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Danjuma Ibrahim, who reportedly ordered the officers to open fire on the unarmed youth, were controversially discharged and acquited.
The murders traders included: Ekene Mgbe, Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwokike and Memory’s fiancee, Augustina Arebu.
They were killed at a police road block along Gimbya Street Area Eleven, Garlic, Abuja, on June 8, 2005.
They were returning from a night club (Grand Mirrage) located along Port Harcourt Street, adjacent to Gimbya Street, when they were stopped at a police checkpoint and some of them shot.
The remaining traders where killed at the Garki Village Police Station, moments after they were taken to the station.
Up till the time of this report, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) at the Garki Village Division, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Abdulsalam Othman, developed wings and disappeared since then from a detention facility at the Force headquarters, Abuja, and has not been rearrested.
It was believed that Othman was assisted to escape from detention by forces sympathetic to Sabrina, as he was the star witness/accomplice in the murder.
It became intriguing which sparked off public protest that after killing the traders, the FCT Police tagged them as members of an armed robbery gang who had purportedly “opened fire on the officers” when stopped.
During investigation by a Police administrative Panel led by then Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIF-Administration), Mike Okiro, it was revealed that the FCT Police Command had asked a welder to bore a hole on the doors of the police patrol van and planted weapons on the victims, so to cast them in public as armed rogues.
No one believed their claim and they failed to put the lie of armed robbers on them.
Furthermore, a Judicial Panel of Inquiry led by Justice Olasumbo Goodluck, set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, further rubbished the FCT Police Command claim and recommended the trial of the six officers, including then DCP Ibrahim.
After twelve years of frustrating ttial, Justice Bello only convicted Ezekiel Acheneje and Emmanuel Baba, both of police rank-and-file and acquitted Ibrahim and two other police officers for want of evidence, ignoring confessional statements of the convicted officers that they shot the traders based on superior directive from Ibrahim.
The acquittal was widely condemned by Nigerians.
Despite concerted plea from the victims’ families, who have lived in agony since the 2005 tragedy for an appeal to be filed against the judgement, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) dismissed them as a frustrated people and declined to file an appeal.
Recall also that in March 2018, Nigeria received worldwide accolades when Justice Chile Eboe-Osuji became the president of the ICC.
Eboe-Osuji became a judge at the court in 2012.