Lawyers Without Borders train policemen in human rights

Ahead of the forthcoming 2023 general elections, Lawyers Without Borders France, has concluded the training on human rights for officers of the Police Complaints Response Unit of the Nigeria Police Force, in Abuja on Wednesday, The PUNCH reports.

The two-day training by the organization otherwise known by its french name – Avocats Sans Frontieres France, was organized in conjunction with the Canadian High Commission in Nigeria through its Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives Funding for 2022/2023.

ASF France noted that the programme was to train officers of the CPRU on response to human rights violations in the country and to also promote the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

The PUNCH reports that in 2022, the organization also trained some lawyers on human rights matters.

The erstwhile programme coordinated by ASF France in collaboration with its local partners, the Nigerian Bar Association and the Carmelite Prisoners Interest Organisation, was implemented on the platform of the European Union by Agence Française de Développement.

With the theme; “Strengthening the National Actors Capacities and Advocation for Ending Severe Human Rights Violations in Nigeria project”, it was designed to address human rights violations of torture, extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detention.

The training also focused on consolidating the knowledge gains of the first, second and third training on human rights for security agencies in Lagos State. Modus operandi of security agencies was examined with respect to human rights laws and standards.

On Wednesday, Country Director, ASF France, Angela Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, emphasised the importance of the training and other interventions of the ASF, while adding that there’s a need for the police to respect and protect human rights.

The Canadian High Commissioner, Nigeria, Jamie Christoff, while appreciating ASF France during his remark on Wednesday, emphasized the need for zero tolerance to human rights violations and the need to strengthen institutions.

Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission noted that the protection of human rights is more crucial in areas of law enforcement and military operations, adding that the police owe citizens the responsibility to protect lives, properties, and prevent crimes.

The NHRC Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, SAN, who spoke during the session on Wednesday said, “While acknowledging the important role of the Nigerian police as contemplated by the Police Act, it is important for the police to carry out its functions in compliance with human rights standards.

“Indeed, the Police Act confers on the police the responsibility of crime prevention, protection of lives and property, investigation and prosecution of suspects, amongst others. This capacity-building engagement is a response to periodic public outery against the police in various parts of the country, including the FCT, Abuja bordering on unlawful or prolonged detention without trial, excessive use of force, extra-judicial killing, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Ojukwu further said that there was a need to emphasize that unless perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable, impunity will thrive.

This was as he noted that accountability for human rights violations are the necessary condition for the prevention of further violations, conflict, and violence, as well as the realization of peace and development while urging the trainees to apply the knowledge and skills gained from the training in the course of their operations, and also tutor their other colleagues.

He added, “The consequences of unaddressed grievances and, unaccountability include strife, continuous violations, and self-help which might result in anarchy. It, therefore, behoves on duty bearers to be accountable and ensure that effective steps are taken to strengthen accountability mechanisms.

“The creation of the PCRU is therefore an acknowledgement that accountability is imperative for law enforcement. The unit seeks to ensure accountability of the police în enforce the law and improve access to justice for victims whose rights have been violated by the Police. Accordingly, it is hoped that this workshop will enhance the capacity of the participating officers of the PCRU to discharge their functions much more effectively.

“In no area is the protection of human rights more crucial than in the areas of law enforcement and military operations. These carry with them elements of force which are often accompanied with or degenerate into violation of human rights if powers are not exercised properly. International standards have been set for the protection of human rights in these areas. These standards safeguard against tyranny, oppression and impunity and constitute checks on those who exercise such powers.”

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