What are Crimes against Humanity?

by E. Terfa Ula-Lisa Esq

Professor I. Sagay in his well-researched article titled International Law, governor Alamieyeigha and Sovereign Immunity after trying in a very tortuous way to demonstrate how Alams may be entitled to sovereign immunity, rebutted Professor Ijalaiye’s suggestion that money laundering could be classified as a crime against humanity. Professor Sagay is a respected legal scholar and was my dean as well as teacher at University of Benin; but with the greatest respect, in seeking to extricate Alams from the grave he dug for himself, the good professor may be grabbing at straws of argument.

Professor Sagay writes, in his own learned opinion, under International Law, what is considered to be the statutory provision for Crimes against humanity. I quote

“This is not a matter involving conjecture,, suggestions, proposals, hypothesis etc. The position is clear and settled. Crimes against humanity are listed in Article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court and money laundering is not one of them. They are (a) Murder, (b) Extermination, (c) Enslavement, (d) Deportation or forcible transfer of populations, (e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of International Law, (f) Torture, (g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity, (h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religions, gender or other grounds recognized as impermissible in International Law….

(i) Enforced disappearance of persons

(ii) The crime of apartheid

(iii) Other inhuman crimes of a similar character.”

Read the full article at http://odili.net/news/source/2005/oct/14/315.html

An Omission perhaps

I wonder how my careful professor may have missed the part quoted above… “Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religions, gender or other grounds recognized as impermissible in International Law…. “

Or even

“(iii) Other inhuman crimes of a similar character.”

Persecution of the people

The entry under to ”Persecute” in Webster’s New World Dictionary is “v. to keep on treating in a cruel or harsh way…” Did Alams treat the people of Bayelsa State in a cruel or harsh way? What is cruel, what is a harsh way? Do you have to use AK47 or machetes before you are considered oppressive. How many people do you need to kill to qualify?

Does emptying the treasury of a composite state of Bayelsa not amount to persecution of the people of the state of Bayelsa? Could pillaging the economy of a State be termed “other inhuman crimes of a similar character” especially, in the context of the judicial knowledge of the fact that Nigeria, nay Bayelsa, a very rich country/state is wallowing in poverty because of the criminal acts of a band of rogues parading as statesmen? One Million Pounds Sterling could build a modern hospital complex in Bayelsa State for the poor peoples resident therein; it was found in the personal possession of their thieving leader. How many avoidable deaths have occurred as a result of lack of basic equipment in their hospitals? How many avoidable accidents on the pot-holed death traps called roads in Bayelsa a million pounds could have filled? These are conjectures all right, but so is the legal argument of Alam’s sovereign immunity. What is genocide; how many people do you need to kill before you qualify as genocidal? How many millions do you need to steal from your people before it becomes “impermissible in International Law”? Do you have to transfer the whole budgetary vote to your private accounts in London before it becomes “impermissible”?

Sovereignty and the people

In a democracy the head of state is not imperial – Nor is the governor. The international Legal regime has long hidden under the law of non-interference in the sovereign affairs of a state principle to do nothing about Third World oppression by their so-called leaders. The IMF, World Bank and other multi-lateral bodies know where all the money they have lent to us has ended, back in the west through so-called sovereigns like Governor-General Alams. The west was unconcerned until in searching for the motives for terrorism, they discovered the discontent educated middle class were angry at their hypocrisy in entertaining blood money from their countries of origin from persons who purport to represent them. The western governments are now investing heavily in democracy in the Emergent Societies. Stable democratic Societies run by honest leaders in a transparent and accountable manner, do not breed terrorists. That is why the international searchlight is on corrupt leaders.

Sovereign Immunity

States have respect for each other and the representatives of the states are accorded respect based on the understanding of the fact that they represent a distinct group of people in an organized political grouping. Genocidal killings, for instance, tear the shroud of sovereignty because the leader that turns against his people no longer has the respect or sovereignty of the people. A case not mentioned by Professor Sagay is that of Manuel Noriega of Panama. Did he have immunity in drug dealing? As a respected jurist, would it be okay for President Obasanjo to transfer the entire budgetary vote for FY2006 to his account in London because he enjoys sovereign immunity? This is not mere conjecture. That is the current reality; governors in Nigeria are competing as to who would stash away the most of the states’ resources for themselves. They are desperate in their schemes to pillage Nigeria. Desperate situations need desperate solutions.

The Law as a Tool

The law was given by God to Moses on the mountain; but stare-decisis remains man-made judge law; it is not etched in stone. With the greatest respect, once more, Governor-General Alams does not have sovereign immunity even based upon Professor Sagay’submission on the authorities. Regarding the 1991 draft the Prof wrote… In its 1991 draft, (U.N Document A/46/10) the International Law Commission (which drafted the Convention commented that this explicit exclusion was intended to preserve existing rules of customary International Law. These rules provide that heads of state are absolutely immune and that even former heads of state are entitled to immunity for their official acts” (underlining mine). Alam may be governor-General, but head of state he is not. He was also not traveling in his official capacity. He did not vouch to the best of our knowledge that the monies in his possession belonged to the people of Nigeria or Bayelsa State.


In Conclusion, we disagree with the Professor that there are numerous other cases, English and otherwise confirming the right of a state within a federation and its Head of State/Government to immunity, which need not be paraded in a newspaper (or internet) article. We also make bold to remind the judges in England and the International legal system that the exigencies of our time dictates a revisit to that old Commonwealth law phrase in the application of laws provided they are not “repugnant to justice equity or good conscience”. This is because, in our own opinion, it is not inconsistent with any law for the time being in force. When thieves are caught, they are tried and if found guilty, locked up. If they had laundered the property, it can be traced and due restitution made to the owner. Period.

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Orikinla Osinachi October 22, 2005 - 6:05 pm

This article by E. Terfa Ula-Lisa Esq is excellent in content and context of the discourse. Because the salient points were elaborated in the most objective manner without conceit or deceit.

Governor DSP.Alamieyeseigha's case cannot be turned into a legal battle of wits when Alamieyeseigha violated the legitimacy of his immunity by breaking the Law. How can he be entitled to the Rule of Law that he has contravenedThere is no justification in any legal argument to challenge the trial of Almieyeseigha in the UK.

Imagine that a group in Nigeria just gave him an award! For what I am baffled.

When we honour our corrupt leaders we are as guilty as them.

Anonymous October 20, 2005 - 2:50 am

The article addressed the substantive issues in the other article it was responding to without EVER casting any aspersions on the person of the writer Prof Sagay. That in my humble opinion is the hallmark of reasoned writing.

Anonymous October 17, 2005 - 11:37 am

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