Group advocates domestication of Nigeria’s international commitments on anti-torture

A rights group, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has called for the domestication and enforcement of all anti-torture laws which Nigeria has committed to at the international level.

The call came from RULAAC as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was marked over the weekend.

Executive Director of RULAAC, Okechukwu Nwanguma in a statement made available to newsmen over the weekend, said observed that although Nigeria has made several commitments to many international conventions on anti-torture, it is yet to domesticate them.

“Nigeria ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 29 October 1993, the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (Torture Convention) on 28 June 2001, and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in 1983. All of which prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by law enforcement and state agents.

“In July 2009, the Nigerian Government ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OP-CAT). However, the government is yet to domesticate it. Although it established the National Committee on Torture as a National Preventive Mechanism to monitor Nigeria’s compliance with its obligations under the Convention, this committee, like other institutions responsible for investigations into allegations of torture and/or ill-treatment, lack the political and financial support to function independently and effectively,” he regretted.

It will be recalled that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, in Section 12 requires that international treaties must be specifically adopted into domestic law in order to be directly enforceable within the country.

According to Nwanguma, neither the ICCPR nor the Torture Convention has been specifically adopted into domestic law in Nigeria.

The RULAAC Boss identified impunity among those in the security forces as one of the biggest obstacles to the reduction of torture and other serious abuses by police in Nigeria.

“Deeply ingrained societal attitudes that accept police torture and other abuses as legitimate tools to combat crime help sustain this impunity.  For many Nigerians who have experienced decades of oppression and brutality by military rulers, the use of violence by the institutions of the state is accepted, even seen as normal. One female detainee who had been brutally beaten in Lagos told Human Rights Watch in Lagos, March 9, 2005 that ‘Of course the police will torture, that is their work. If they see suspects, they must torture.’

“Even when they know the police action was wrong, indeed illegal, those interviewed often showed a feeling of utter helplessness to seek redress.  The fact that in all but a handful of cases, there was no accountability for violations committed by the individual police officer no doubt emboldened the perpetrators and has perpetuated the culture of violence in the Nigerian Police Force,” he pointed out.

RULAAC said it considers torture, an abhorrent violation of human rights and human dignity, and consistently and unreservedly condemns the practice.

It said the right not to be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are fundamental to human dignity, as well as to democracy and the rule of law.

“On this day of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture RULAAC joins the global human rights community in commemorating this day and to affirm its stance in solidarity with victims and survivors of torture.

“We renew our commitment to contribute to national and international efforts to prevent torture and call for greater adherence by Nigerian government and law enforcement agencies to domestic and international human rights standards in criminal justice systems,” it said.

The group urged the Nigerian government to commit to ensuring that legal frameworks to prevent and prohibit torture not only exist but are enforced, with particular focus on pre-trial detention or the police.

It further advocated increased political will and capacity to prevent and prohibit torture, including the domestication and implementation of CAT and OPCAT.

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