A rights group, Access to Justice (A2J), in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has conducted a capacity building training for senior police officers on the application and use of the Antitorture Act and other related legislation.
The training workshop, which was funded by the European Union and the British Council, took place at the State CID conference Hall, Panti, Yaba, Lagos.
The training tagged “Capacity building training workshop for Senior Police Officers on the Anti-torture Act and other legislation that prohibit torture” and held on October 7th, was conducted following unending outcry against police brutality and torture especially by the Special Anti- Robbery Squad unit (SARS).
Addressing over 30 participants, Dr. Abiodun Odusote, a Senior lecturer of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, said that Nigeria was party to international United Nations Treaties prohibiting torture, including Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966 as ratified by Nigeria on July 29, 1993 and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by General Assembly resolutions 34/169 on 17/12/179 Article 5. Odusote said “the Anti-torture Act 2017 stipulates that any police officer who tortures another person (either civilian or fellow officer) is liable to 25 years imprisonment,” saying that the objective of the training was to enable police officers highlight and explore the legal framework on the prevention of torture and preserving of human dignity to holistically examine the concept of torture and understand the need to prevent it; to know the significant of reporting and documenting instances of torture; to highlight the provisions of the new Police Act, 2020 in preventing torture.
This, Odusote noted that many instance of the law enforcement officers engaging in acts that would be classified as torture, cruel and inhuman treatments had been documented; and these instances were on the rise.
He said: “The Anti-torture Act enacted in 2017 as an Act of the National Assembly has 13 sections. “For an act to amount to torture, the following elements must be established: Severity of physical or mental pain or suffering caused to the victim; intentionally inflicted; a specific purpose; Consent or acquiescence of a public officer or other persons acting in an official capacity.
“It is a criminal offence not to report incidents of torture. Anyone present at the time when torture is being inflicted but failed to prevent it, maybe assumed primarily liable.
The law imposes obligations on us because torture is discriminatory, criminal and dehumanizing. “Torture can be systematic beating, punching, kicking, head banging, electric shocks, striking with rifle butts, jumping on stomach, deprivation of food or forcible feeding with spoiled food (animal or human excreta), cigarette burning, submersion of head in water, confinement in solitary cells put in public places etc.
“Article 1 imposes obligation on the government to ensure that all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners are respected at all times and that no person under investigation or held in custody is subjected to any form of physical or mental torture. ”
Article 2 describes torture as when an act by which pain and suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person to; obtain information or confession from him or a third person punish him for an act he or a third person has committed or suspected or having committed.
Or intimidate or coerce him or third person for any reason based on discrimination of any kind. “Article 3 permits no exceptions to the use of torture. It prohibits secret detention facilities, solitary confinement, incommunicado detentions where torture maybe carried out. It makes very clear that any evidence obtained from torture is inadmissible in any court except for use of against a person accused of torture.”
However, New Telegraph observed, during the session, that 80% of the participants were not familiar with the Anti-torture Act as 10% were hearing of it for the first time and only 10% were familiar with it. New Telegraph gathered that one of the major concerns raised by some of the SARS’ operatives was the issue of finding an alternative means of extracting information from suspects during interrogation or investigation aside torture.
Some of the questions raised by the police officers included “torture is not the best way of extracting information from a criminal or suspect. But what is the alternative means? “When a criminal is arrested and is not tortured, they are sometimes released on bail by a judge and in less than a month, they go back to the society to do more havoc. So, how can a SARS’ operative properly conduct investigation without torture? “The application of the Anti-torture Act in the western region and how it can be effectively applied in the Nigerian law enforcement agencies?”
Also speaking at the event, Mr. Nathaniel Ngwu, a member of the Nigerian Bar Association and the West African Bar Association, said that Nigeria had ratified Optional Protocol of the Convention of Against Torture (OPCAT) on July 27, 2009. Ngwu said that Section 34(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution recognized the right to freedom from torture.