Torture is illegal, lawyers tell security agencies

As against the use of torture as a tool of investigation by Nigerian security agencies, an international human rights organization, Avocats Sans Frontier, popularly known as Lawyers Without Borders, yesterday kicked against the practice, saying it is illegal.

Chairperson of the association in Nigeria, Angela Uwandu, stated this when she led her team to pay a courtesy visit on the leadership of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Kaduna Council, Comrade Garba Muhammad.

Uwandu said it is condemning torture in totality; condemnable because the role of the security agencies “is to protect the people, but where the same group of people are brutalizing or using torture as a means or tool of investigation, stand condemnable.”

According to her, “Torture, as we know, is illegal; however, it’s in use currently in Nigeria by our security agencies. It is an action we condemn very strongly. And we are working to ensure that we promote accountability in the system to ensure that perpetrators of torture are held accountable, especially where they are state actors. Because as we know, the role of the security agencies really is to protect us, but where we have the same group of people brutalizing or using torture as a means or tool of investigation, we stand very strongly against that.

“We work in different continents, with our headquarters in France. We have also been operating an office in Nigeria since 2009. We implement human rights interventions in Nigeria. We work primarily on major issues around the criminal justice sector. We work for the promotion and protection of human rights.

“On a larger scale, we have been focusing on issues promoting the review of the laws on capital punishment in Nigeria. But primarily for this particular purpose, we have a project, an anti-torture project termed ‘Promoting the Principles of the United Nations Convention Against Torture’ (Pro-CAT) in Nigeria. It’s not a new project and not the first time it’s working with the media.

“We have been implementing this particular project since 2009. The project has evolved as we have added new elements and new activities. As part of what we are doing, we have identified the importance of working with the media. And that is why we are here today to pay a courtesy visit to you and also to explain our programs. The project aims to stigmatize torture,” she said.

In addition, she said the project also has a component of capacity building as she disclosed plans by the association to train journalists on its activities. “In the project, we have capacity building aspect of it where we hold trainings for our various actors (judicial actors in the judicial sector). So since 2009, we have held series of trainings in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission for judges, magistrates, police officers, prison officers, staff of the ministry of justice, Nigerian Bar Association, on UN convention against torture. The project aims to stigmatize torture.

“Aside the training, it also provides free legal assistance to victims of torture,” Uwandu stated. However, the NUJ Chairman, Comrade Garba Muhammad, represented by his Vice Chairman, Zhiroh Jatau, said capacity building is key to his administration just as it said it is willing to partner with the group.


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