EVERY June 26, the world commemorates the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. It is a day set aside for stakeholders to raise critical awareness about torture and rally support for those who have experienced any form of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment by state actors. In commemoration of this year’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), has called on the Nigerian government to implement the recommendations made by the Presidential Panel on SARS, as an actionable step towards promoting justice and support for victims of torture.
In a release made available to Advocetenewsng.com and signed by the group’s national coordinator, Mr. Chino Obiagwu, SAN, it said undoubtedly the use of torture, cruel and degrading treatment, including extrajudicial killings by law enforcement officials in Nigeria is rife, despite the fact that a chunk of these incidents goes unreported, credible evidence abound to show the degree and nature of torture state actors perpetrate against victims.
It may be recalled that before the 2020 #EndSARS protest that led to the unfortunate Lekki toll gate massacre, the National Human Rights Commission led an investigative Panel on the Reform of SARS. The Panel which was set up to make inquiries into the alleged use of torture by officers of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Unit of the Nigeria Police Force concluded investigations and submitted their report to President Mohammadu Buhari in June 2019. The President urged the Ministry of Justice to within 3 months, work out the modalities for the implementation of the report. A few of the recommendations made by the Panel include the improvement of the welfare of police officers, the strengthening of internal mechanisms of the Unit, and the dismissal and prosecution of culpable police officers.
As part of the implementation efforts of the government, the Panel’s recommendation to rename SARS was implemented, but details of the full implementation status of this report remains hazy till date. To investigate allegations of human rights violations by the Police, another Presidential Panel on SARS was inaugurated shortly before the ill-fated 20 October 2020. The Panel which faced funding challenges has managed to conclude public hearings in select zones, but is yet to submit a report.
LEDAP commends the positive steps that the current administration has taken to tackle torture, specifically the enactment of the Anti-Torture Act; which is yet to ground any prosecution and the establishment of the various panels on SARS. However, more needs to be done for the government to be manifestly seen as tackling torture and promoting accountability for victims of torture.
To this end, LEDAP urges the Nigerian government not to pay lip service to the efforts that have been made in support of torture victims and revisit for implementation purposes, the recommendations made by the Panel on SARS Reform and the central government-focused recommendations made by the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry on SARS. We further urge the government to grant the necessary support for the Presidential Panel on SARS to fulfill their mandate and submit their report before the expiration of this current administration’s tenure and more importantly, back their recommendations with implementation. This will guarantee maximum utilization of resources invested so far and consequently, encourage continuity by the next administration.
Finally, ahead of the 2023 general elections, LEDAP calls on all stakeholders to advocate against the use of torture by law enforcement officials and to unite in the fight against the culture of impunity.
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