Nigeria: Right to Freedom From Torture Non-Negotiable, Says Govt

(file photo).
26 June 2019

Abuja — The federal government on Wednesday reiterated its commitment to protecting the rights of the people against all forms of torture and inhuman treatment in the country.

The reiteration was made in Abuja at an event organised by the Federal Ministry of Justice to commemorate the 2019 United Nations International Day in support of victims of torture.

The Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, in an address maintained that the right to freedom from torture is non-negotiable.

Apata, who was represented by the Director, Legal Drafting Department of the ministry, Hamza Tahir, said allegations of torture are prevalent in detention centres, police stations and that officers of security agencies that perpetrate the act are most times not punished.

He said security agencies engage in acts of torture because they lack forensic and standard investigation techniques.

The solicitor general said the application of torture to extract confession from suspects or as a way of punishment amounts to a by-pass of the judicial process by not subjecting the suspect to the time-honoured practice of trial of suspects in the regular courts.

He said Section 34 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended prohibits the infliction of torture.

The section, Apata noted, provides that, "Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment, no person shall be held in slavery or servitude, and no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour."

According to him, Articles 5 & 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United Nation Convention on Torture, inhuman and degrading treatment to which Nigeria is a signatory, prohibit the use of torture of any kind.

Apata said there is no doubting the fact that millions of persons, families and groups suffer from torture throughout the world.

According to him, "Torture is one of the most cruel human rights violations which cause severe physical pain and psychological trauma to victims.

"Torture also dehumanises and inflicts emotional scars which many victims take to their graves," adding that violation of human rights is unacceptable in the country.

Apata noted that torture is a clear assault on the inherent dignity and fundamental freedoms of human persons and it is wicked, dehumanising and has been criminalised in Nigeria with the enactment of the Anti-Torture Act 2017, which he said assigns certain responsibilities to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice.

"One of these responsibilities is that the AGF shall assign to a particular office or unit of the agency concerned with the duty of overseeing the implementation of this Act," he said.

In line with the provision of the Act, the Ministry of Justice, he said, has assigned the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of the Act to the National Committee Against Torture which was constituted since 2009 as a unit under the Citizens Rights Department.

Section 12 of the Act also stipulates that the AGF shall, with the approval of the president, make rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Anti - Torture Act.

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