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NHRC HARPS ON CAPACITY BUILDING FOR STAKEHOLDERS TO ENSURE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF ANTI-TORTURE ACT, 2017

Posted: 2018-02-02


The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has harped on capacity building for law enforcement agents, human rights defenders and stakeholders generally in order for them to effectively drive the process of implementing the newly signed Anti-Torture Act.

The Executive Secretary Designate of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu, Esq., made this disclosure when a Member of UN Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), Dr. Satyabhoosun Gupt Domah and Mrs. Debra Long, Research Fellow at the Human Rights Implementation Center, University of Bristol Law School, paid a working visit to the Commission in Abuja.

The Executive Secretary Designate said that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not support torture or other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment saying that impunity and lack of respect for sanctity of human life have continued to encourage various forms of maltreatments and Torture of suspects.

Barr. Ojukwu said that in recognition of the ordeal many people reportedly go through in the hands of some overzealous law enforcement agents who were often accused of using crude methods to elicit information from suspects, the Commission had continually trained officers and men of the Police, the military and paramilitary on the need to mainstream human rights principles into their duties and operations.

Besides, he assured the visiting UN envoy that the Commission was already empowered by a robust law to adequately deal with various cases of torture and other human rights violations but regretted that insufficient funding had continued to affect some of its programmes and activities.

In his remarks, the Dr. Domah stated that National Committee on Torture does not meet the requirements of a National Prevention Mechanism under Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and that it had not made appreciable impact in tackling cases of torture in Nigeria. He recommended that such a body ought to be decisive in addressing all forms of torture and that he found that the National Human Rights Commission had such capacity by virtue of its mandate and activities.

The UN Representative also urged the Commission to work more closely with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and always ensure that the rights of detainees to access their counsel, medication and family members were not denied.

Dr. Domah encouraged the Commission to take advantage of the goodwill flowing from the government passage of the Act to get donor support to finance its different programmes and activities geared towards preventing and addressing cases of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment in Nigeria.

Thereafter, Dr. Domah, Mrs. Long, Barr. Ojukwu and other officials of the Commission met with members of the Civil Society Organizations in the country and had extensive deliberations about how best to leverage on the new Anti-Torture Law to address various concerns about torture and other forms of ill-treatment bedeviling the criminal justice administration in the country.

The CSOs and the Commission commended the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN, for facilitating the signing of the Act and producing a draft Rules and Guidelines for the implementation of the Act. It is expected that the draft guidelines will be used to facilitate consultations amongst stakeholders before a final guideline document is adopted that will facilitate the successful implementation of the Act.

CSO stakeholders present generally agreed on the need to create awareness about the new legislation and build the capacity of the judiciary, Law Enforcement Agents and CSOs to ensure that the new law achieves the desired effect on the criminal justice administration in Nigeria.

It will be recalled that the passage of the Anti-Torture Act, 2017 was aimed at stemming the tide of frequent use of torture to extract confessional/statements from suspects resulting in most of the evidence in court to be confessional statements.

Again, Law Enforcement Officers found to have extracted evidence by torture could not be prosecuted because torture was not criminalized under our law. With the passage of the new legislation, it is expected that there will, henceforth, be accountability for use of Torture. This will discourage and prevent the use of Torture to extract confessional statements. Any person who commits Torture under the Anti-Torture Act 2017 is liable to imprisonment to a maximum of 25 years.


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CALL FOR MEMORANDA/NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

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