By Albert Akota
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has charged the law enforcement personnel and other stakeholders not to support any process that will encourage torture but rather promote the implementation of the provisions of the Anti-Torture Act 2017.
The Acting Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mrs. Oti Ovrawah who was represented by the Director Human Rights Education and Promotion, Mr. Nasir Ladan stated this in Abuja in a welcome address during the opening session of the training of law enforcement personnel on the new Anti-Torture Act 2017.
According to the Acting Executive Secretary, “in response to the rising concerns and allegations of torture across the country, the Commission in conjunction with government and non-governmental organizations has over the years convened public dialogues and training on torture”.
She said that these dialogues brought together stakeholders in the criminal justice administration sector to discuss the issues and come up with modalities on how best to discourage the practice of torture just as she disclosed that a major issue was the challenge encountered by law enforcement agencies in the course of investigating crimes and the urgent need for reforms in the area.
In his opening remarks at the event organized by the NHRC, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE-Nigeria) and Bonum Seeds Foundation, the Executive Director of CURE-Nigeria, Mr. Sylvester Uhaa regretted that in spite of the signing and ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) and its operational protocol many years ago, Nigeria failed to domesticate the Convention through legislative, administrative or judicial means as a mandatory for every state party until 4th November, 2017, thereby making the day historical.
Emphasizing on the importance of the new law and the need to stop all acts of torture in the country, Mr. Uhaa cited right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment among the four categories of rights that are non-derogable including right to life, right to be free from slavery or servitude and right to be free from retrospective application of penal laws.
He therefore called on the law enforcement agencies to always be professional in handling suspects or detainees especially as it relates to extracting information from them saying there are modern and internationally accepted standards to follow in obtaining statements from suspects without contravening local, regional and international laws.
The Director of Legal Services and Enforcement of the NHRC, Mr. Olaniyi Omodara took the participants through the provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment saying that the law is expected to address various forms of torture which negates the essence of human rights.
He said that Convention Against Torture (CAT) was made in recognition of equal and inalienable right of all members of human family as a foundation of freedom, justice and peace all over the world and recognizing that those rights derive from inherent dignity of human person.
The participant drawn from the Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, Nigeria Prison Service, Legal Aids Council of Nigeria, Nigerian Bar Association among others shared their experiences in the field and how best to address the issue of torture in Nigeria.