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Opinion: Journalists as Advocate against Human Rights Abuse

Emerging challenges on how to distil issues of Human Rights in Nigeria was the major topic at a two-day training for journalists in Benin City, Edo State.

Adibe Emenyonu who was part of training, writes on the significance.

Even with a knowledge of the constitution and other relevant laws including United Nations Conversation against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and the Anti-Torture Act 2017, it is still a difficult job for the average journalist covering crimes and other related issues.

Interestingly, four years after the enactment of the Anti- Torture Act, most media practitioners are neither aware of the provisions in the piece of legislation nor understand the liabilities for violators of the law, and its core mandate.

In order to fill this gap, widen the knowledge base, build public confidence and give media practitioners a head start, Advocats San Frontiers (ASF), in advancing the course of the United Nations Convention against Torture with the support of the German Embassy, organized a two-day training/workshop on Human Rights for selected journalists in Edo State.ASF, also known as Lawyers without Borders is an international human rights, non-governmental organization working for the promotion and protection of human rights and the establishment of the rule of law.

It provides free legal services to victims of torture throughout their ProCAT project with the aim to eradicate torture through implementation of the United Nations (UN) Convention against torture, which Nigeria ratified in 2001.

The focal point of the training was to equip participants with the requisite knowledge and skills on how to hold agents of state actors, comprising the law enforcement agents Police, Directorate of State Security Service (DSS), Nigerian Military, Correctional Centre and others charged with such responsibility to adhere to or account for their atrocities in the Provisions of the Anti- Torture Act both in practice and principle by using available legal instruments towards the prevention of Human Rights abuses or protecting the rights of crime suspects, detainees across the various Custodial Centre in the country.

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The lectures and interactive session helped to unravel what was initially thought by journalists as an ‘Omnibus or old piece of legislation.

The conversation was centered on higher advocacy demand for the media to highlight security agencies detainees’ torture with high sense of urgency.

In a paper presentation by ProCAT Case Manager, Advocats Sans Frontier (ASF) France, Mrs. Edugie Amihere titled: “Promoting Human Dignity — Salient Provisions of United Nations Convention Against Torture (unCAT), underscored the importance of the law with other related issues and canvassed reasons why media practitioners should use legal instruments to promote justice.

The resource person while giving a graphic presentation, highlighted the thematic areas of operations of ASF and offered explanation on non-admissibility of evidence as a result of torture in Section 4 of the Anti-torture Act 2017, which stipulates that “Any confession, admission or statement obtained as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in a proceeding, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the confession, admission or statement was made.

In another presentation titled: “Introduction to Fundamental Human Rights”, Mrs. Amihere harped on a collaborative efforts aimed to redirect the mental thinking of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), security agents, journalists, legal practitioners and other actors in Administration of Criminal Justice Administration (ACJA), needs assessment and data analysis that is result-driven, and to enhance feedback conversation as agents of change and development.

According to her, “journalists need to learn and know how to report cases of fundamental Human Rights infringement. It helps them to add to what is already known and defend human rights of people, especially the voiceless and downtrodden in society.”

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She emphasized that the major threats against Human Rights in Nigeria is not absence of enabling laws, but implementation, assuring however that continuous advocacy and the support of the ProCAT project probono legal services across Edo, Lagos, Kaduna, Imo, Enugu States offer a silver lining.

Another resource person, Mrs. Patricia Iyomon, lectured on the topic: “Accountability of Perpetrators of Human Rights abuses under the Anti- Torture Act 2017”.

She provided data on management and other basic principles of law that border on impact evaluation, and human rights violation cases in Nigeria and Edo State.

Iyomon, a former Chairperson of the Nigeria Bar Association, Benin Branch, stated that relevant documents of laws have helped to sustain the development of the rule of law, access to justice, the fight against injustice, citizens and detainees rights to a fair trial and prevent the nuance arising from the lack of will power by relevant authorities to enforce human rights laws and when necessary take up a writ against offenders.

Participants at the workshop, gave a good account of themselves and compared notes for a higher advocacy on Citizens’ Rights and confront contradictions by deploying the “sword of justice against tyranny and torture” orchestrated by alien adventurers.

Earlier in an opening remarks, the facilitator said the training was designed for media workers, first to understand their rights, so they can also advocate for the right of others. (This Day)

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