By Katumi Muhammad Oboirien
Anti-torture Act, 2017 Section 2(1) defines as Torture is deemed committed when an act by which pain or 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 is suspected of having committed or Intimidate or coerce him or a third person for any reason based on discrimination of any kind.
Furthermore, The act also further defines Torture as:
When such suffering is influenced by or at the instigation of or with the consent of a public officer acting in an official capacity provided that it does not include pain or suffering in compliance with lawful sanctions.
Torture can either be physical or mental or psychological. Physical torture refers to such cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which causes pain, exhaustion, disability or dysfunction of one or more part of the body, such as Systematic beating, headbanging, punching, kicking, striking with rifle butts, and jumping on the stomach.
Mental or psychological torture, which is referring to such cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment calculated to affect or confuse the mind or undermine a person’s dignity and morale such as threatening a person or such persons related or known to him with bodily harm, execution or wrongful acts. A country’s failure to act against such abuses can itself be a human rights violation.
Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The Anti-Torture Act prescribes offenses and penalties for any person, including law enforcement officers, who commits torture or aids, abets, or by act or omission is an accessory to torture. It also provides a basis for victims of torture to seek civil damages.
However, with the Anti-torture Act, 2017 that criminalized torture. Torture remains a subject of major concern in Nigeria. The most frequent perpetrators of torture are operatives of the security and law enforcement agencies including the police, the military, the state security service, and agents of paramilitary institutions such as prison officers, officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. These acts are usually perpetrated before official detention, after which, the victims are detained by the security agency involved or transferred to the prisons.
Tortures still remain a huge problem in Nigeria despite the various international and regional instruments Nigeria has ratified. Torture still remains a weapon used by Security Agents for interrogating and intimidating suspects. These challenges have been a subject of several reports and facts sheets developed over the years by Prisoner Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) in partnership with such International Organisations as International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and National Organisations as Network of Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN).
In late 2017 citizens began a social media campaign (#EndSARS) to document physical abuse and extortion by SARS officers and demanded SARS units be disbanded.
In December 2017 the IGP announced plans to reorganize SARS units, but complaints of abuse continued. Several SARS agents were dismissed from the force and, in some instances, prosecuted, and the NPF sought technical assistance for investigations of SARS agents. An Amnesty International poll in May 2019 indicated that 63% of poll respondents regard to torture and unlawful killings by the Police, as the most serious human right violation they want the Government to address.
We all need to play a part in defending and promoting human rights violations wherever they are threatened or violated. We have to point out if an action or inaction by state authorities is violating human rights. Otherwise, states can continue to violate and torture victims without being held accountable, those who are authorized to bear arms and make an arrest and investigate complaints or crime, ought to understand that this comes with responsibility which must be respected, especially when it comes to complying with the rules and regulation of these agencies. The government must address this challenge and punish any officer found violating the provision of the law.
In summary, all acts of torture and ill-treatment must be documented when reported to prevent and reduce human rights violations by security forces. To investigate reports of such violations and hold those responsible to account.
Set up a monitoring committee to check the activities of these agencies. Create conditions conducive to preventing torture, including by creating a central database or register of all places of detention. Modify the law against torture to provide rehabilitation for torture victims. Establish a national preventive mechanism in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Katumi Muhammad Oboirien is the Head of Prisoner Rehabilitation and Welfare Action Kano office (PRAWA)
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