As Nigeria joins the rest of the global community to commemorate the 2020 International Day in support of Victims of Torture, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called on the Law Enforcement Agents and indeed all Nigerians to see themselves as advocates against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments which have remained a sore point in our human rights records.
The Commission stated that International Day Against Victims of Torture is very significant because it provides the opportunity on yearly bases to reminisce and review our conducts, as Individuals, Groups, Security Operatives, Executives, Legislature and Judiciary as well as Ministries, Departments and Agencies and to ensure that they are in conformity with the laid down human rights standards and norms.
Executive Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu Esq who stated this at the eve of this year’s commemoration urged the Law Enforcement Officials and other categories of persons to desist from all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as these are not acceptable in any national, regional or international law.
While expressing worries about the spate of torture and other related human rights violations which come in various forms including domestic violence, assault, rape etc, Ojukwu lamented that although Nigeria has ratified several major International Human Rights Treaties, and has also passed the Anti-Torture Act 2017 into law, torture still remains a weapon used by Security Agents for interrogating and intimidating suspects.
The NHRC Boss said that the presidential panel on State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Chaired by the Commission in 2018 revealed that “torture was predominantly the means of collecting evidence from suspects” by SARS. Accordingly, he reminded the Law Enforcement Agencies and their Officials to abide by the provision of UN Minimum Standard Rules for Treatment of Persons under any form of detention.
He urged them to mainstream human rights in their operations, saying the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the Anti-Torture Act 2017 and other legislation and international instruments to which Nigeria is a party are there to help them in carrying out their lawful duties void of any form of human rights violation.
According to Ojukwu, the Commission has recorded several cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) associated with torture which has since assumed different dimensions. “The sudden surge in rape and other related SGBV cases is a source of worry to the Commission because of the senseless and bestial manner in which these crimes are committed in recent times” all of which are tantamount to torture to the victims. He called on stakeholders to make concerted efforts in playing their roles in stemming the tides of the ugly trend as no single institution can deal with the issue alone.
Meanwhile, the Commission commends the efforts of the Federal government in signing the Anti-Torture Act, Gunshot Victims Act and Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act as these will go a long way to check incidences of torture and other related issues in the country. All the states yet to pass these regulations are urged to do so without further delay.
The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is observed on 26 June annually in honour of the Convention Against Torture.
Tony Ojukwu, Esq.
25th June, 2020