NGOs, CSOs task FG on criminalising torture

By Innocent Anaba
Nigerian non-governmental and civil society organisations, have in Banjul, the Gambia, called on the Federal Government to ensure that incidents of torture perpetrated by security operatives in the country are checked, by criminalising the offence of torture.

The groups also called on the Nigerian government to check the alarming cases of unlawful treatment of pre-trial detainees in the country’s prisons.

Similarly, the Commission’s Committee chairperson for the Prevention of Torture in Africa, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, said torture remains a major problem in the continent.

Some Nigerian NGOs and CSOs in their respective presentations at the on-going 48th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Banjul, urged the Nigerian government to pass legislation criminalising torture and domesticate the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture.

Among the groups that made the call were the Rights Enforcement and Public Law Centre, REPLACE; Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, PRAWA, among others.

REPLACE in its statement by Mrs Felicita Aigbogun-Brai, said “in Nigeria prisons, pre-trial detainees are kept in separate prisons from the convicted prisoners, but the section for the pre-trial detainees is so overcrowded that in many prisons, detainees cannot move around and live and sleep in small spaces or sleep leaning against the wall.”

“We acknowledge the constrains under which the criminal justice agencies in Nigeria operate, the police lack the investigative skill and capacity to conclude investigations within a  reasonable time, while the Director of Public Prosecution is dependent on the police to investigate and provide him with evidence to facilitate criminal prosecution, and most judicial officers labour under archaic court rooms and equipment, however, all these constraints do not justify the torturous conditions under which pre-trial detainees are made to live.

Criminal agencies must query the justification of punishing pre-trial detainees for deficiencies and failure in their work processes and procedure,” she added.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Atoki said: “Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity. Torture is repulsive, deliberate, cruel, a crude and ancient tool of political oppression, commonly used to terrorise people or to wring confession out of suspected criminals, who may or may not be guilty.”

According to her, “few African countries are free from the use of torture, which is used by governments to counter all dissent and by individual groups to impose their ideas or authority on others to the demand observance to a regime, to impose a reign of terror among entire population.”

She meanwhile called on African countries to “take concrete measure to respect their commitments with regards to the right of victims to an effective remedy for the human rights violations suffered as a result of torture and other ill-treatment, as well as the right to full redress, including compensation and rehabilitation.”

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