The Nigerian justice system is under-resourced and backlogged. Prisons are overcrowded and the majority of detainees are in pre-trial detention, some of whom have been awaiting trial for several years. For the past 15 years, ASF France has been working to strengthen the rule of law and improve access to justice for all citizens, particularly those in vulnerable situations.
With the SAFE project starting in 2019, and thanks to the support of the European Union and the French Development Agency, we are continuing our work to fight against serious human rights violations (torture, inhuman treatment, arbitrary detentions and extra-judicial executions), perpetrated by state security agencies with impunity.
This month saw the second mission to Lagos State. From 3 to 7 May, a team from ASF France and our local project partners, CAPIO and the Nigerian Bar Association, met with officials from security agencies and key institutional actors involved in legal aid and human rights advocacy. These advocacy visits were aimed not only at securing their cooperation with the SAFE project, but also at encouraging them to join the fight against torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial executions. In particular, cases of human rights violations identified by the project were highlighted in order to attract their attention and prompt immediate investigation and/or action. These advocacy visits were also an opportunity to invite these key actors to participate in the roundtable with CSOs and news agencies. In total, 43 participants were able to exchange best practices and experiences, formulate recommendations and propose solutions regarding serious human rights violations.
From 24 to 28 May, two trainings were conducted by the project leader Angela Uwandu Uzoma-iwuchukwu and a co-trainer from CAPIO. First, 25 members of the police and other state security agencies were trained for three days on good practices in respecting human rights. The targeted participants were those who interact directly with the general public and suspects in the course of their work. Specifically, the training focused on national, regional and international legislation, including the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts (ACJ), which have introduced some innovations in police conduct during arrests and detentions with regard to human rights. Deepening their knowledge of the investigation process was also included in the training itinerary, as the police have an obligation to investigate the conduct of state security agencies in cases of serious human rights violations. At the end of the training, participants were encouraged to duplicate the content of the training for their colleagues.
In parallel, the second training brought together journalists and bloggers who cover the justice sector and security issues, and members of identified human rights CSOs in Lagos. The 20 participants were trained to monitor and observe the human rights situation and to act effectively on violations. These skills are essential for CSOs working with victims who need to be familiar with national, regional and international instruments and procedures. Documenting cases and obtaining clear and reliable information was also on the agenda. For journalists, they will be able to report on violations committed by state security agencies from an informed human rights perspective. For court cases, CSOs and the media were invited to refer to the legal assistance team on specific cases during the project. In addition, they were trained in advocacy engagement with relevant stakeholders and policy makers for the promotion of respect for human rights by state security agencies. The participants, after completing the training, will be able to train their peers, thus contributing to the sustainability of the actions promoted by the project.