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Torture And The Rights Of Suspects In Police Custody

Every suspect in the custody of law enforcement agencies has a right to the dignity of his person. In other words, a suspect in custody of the police or other law enforcement agencies is expected to be treated with dignity. As amended, this right is protected under section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That was not the case for Mrs. Happiness Liberty, a mother of three and a resident of Igando, Lagos State.

According to Sahara Reporters, on Sep. 11, 2022, Liberty and six of her family members, including two of her children and her 11-month-old baby, were unjustly incarcerated and tortured after her husband challenged a police officer who ran into him with his motorcycle. They were incarcerated for four days and accompanied by harmful threats to their lives upon any interviews with the media.

Often, suspects in the custody of law enforcement agencies have been victims of brutality, hard labour, torture, use of force, and denial of food, usually done for the purpose of eliciting confessional statements from the suspects. It must be noted that such acts done by security operatives are not only a breach of the suspects’ fundamental rights but also a criminal act. In other words, it is a criminal offense for any security officer to torture a suspect or direct the torture of a suspect. It is also an act of torture to deny a suspect in custody food.

Thus, in section 1(a) of Anti-Torture Act 2017 provides; “The Government shall—(a) ensure that the rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners are respected at all times and that no person placed under investigation or held in custody ofany person in authority shall be subjected to physical harm, force, violence, threat or intimidation or any act that impairs his free will..”

It must be noted that the above law punishes with a maximum imprisonment of 25 years for anyone found guilty of such heinous crime (See 9 of Anti-Torture Act 2017). It must further be noted that under this law what amounts to torture includes both physical and mental abuse, including the deprivation of food.

In addition, the act of torture could impose civil liabilities on perpetrators. Hence, if security operatives who enjoy torturing suspects are prosecuted, such cases of human rights violations will be minimized.
HRF provided free legal representation for indigent client, Ariwajoye Johnson. The defendant was discharged and acquitted on November 16, 2022, after being incarcerated for 43 months.

L & R: HRF-West Regional Coordinator, A.Y. Aliyu with client, Ariwajoye Johnson after his release from the Olokuta High Court, Akure, Ondo State

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