The recently concluded 3-day workshop held by the Wayamo Foundation and the International Nuremberg Principles Academy in Abuja from 21 to 23 May, is the fifth in the current series of training sessions on “Strengthening Justice and Accountability in Nigeria”, and was purpose-designed to impart joint training for 32 senior military and civil investigators and prosecutors. The overall aim is to equip Nigerian prosecutors and investigators with the necessary expertise and skills to address serious and complex international, transnational and terrorism-related crimes under Nigerian criminal law, including crimes that may potentially fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
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The event was officially opened by Wayamo Foundation Director, Bettina Ambach, and Nigerian Army Director of Legal Services, General Yusuf Shalangwa. In light of the principle of complementarity under which “the ICC will step in if a nation is unwilling or unable to carry out the necessary investigation and prosecution of an international crime”, Ms. Ambach announced that henceforth training would be increasingly focusing on the practical side. For his part, General Shalangwa said that, “There is no gain saying that the previous military workshops had been enriching and enlightening and that this workshop could not have come at a better time!”
In addition to a team of experts drawn from Nigeria and across the globe, ICC Situation Analysts, Claus Molitor and Azra Kuci were on hand to kick off the proceedings with an update on the ICC’s preliminary examination in Nigeria, and a detailed explanation of precisely why Nigeria needed to show that it was genuinely pursuing eight potential cases in its domestic courts. By way of response, Geraldine Okafor, Chief State Counsel of the Complex Casework Group, reviewed some of the more salient aspects of the recent Kainji trials where her unit has been prosecuting alleged Boko Haram members since October of last year.
Addressing a series of specific subjects: Former Lead International Prosecutor Charles Adeogun-Phillips spoke eloquently -and at times controversially- on “Understanding the rights of the accused before civil and military courts”; Harvard Law Professor, Alex Whiting, applying the maxim that “The best defence lawyer in the courtroom is the prosecutor”, gave a master class on “Trial advocacy- effective strategies and techniques”; University of California’s Kim Thuy Seelinger spoke on the sensitive and often little-known issues surrounding “The investigation and prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence”; and Lt. Colonel Jon Shelburne of the US Marine Corps Reserve took the participants through a graphic and highly factual account of “Military investigations: violations of international human rights law and the law of armed conflict”.
The various strings of the workshop were brought together by Adeniran Akingbolahan, Rule of Law Advisor to the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who first described the “The role of a prosecution co-ordinator”, and then, with help of his other colleagues and Adejoké Babington-Ashaye, International Law Specialist and former ICC investigator, took the participants through a dynamic, interactive group exercise, designed to show how the provisions of Nigeria’s criminal law could be used to prosecute international crimes to the standard required by the ICC.
It is no exaggeration to say that the participants could not have been more engaged, the atmosphere more conducive to learning, or the dialogue more fluid and frank throughout. “This”, said Ms. Ambach, “was our most practical workshop to date”. In a fitting tribute, Alex Whiting had this to say, “It is always inspiring and interesting to be in Nigeria and I wish you luck and support for the work that you do!”