The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) joined other Civil Society Organizations and the media to condemn in its entirety the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment meted on Mr. Kofi Bartels, a broadcast journalist with the Nigerian Info on June 4, 2019 by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad department of the Nigerian Police. His offence was an attempt to rescue an innocent victim- a mere boy whose mother sells ‘akara’ for a living. As a journalist, he had thought that taking a photo of the plate number of the car of heinous officers who were brutalizing the little boy was the most civil way to gather evidence to testify about the torture the boy. Little did he know that he will turn to be the prey of the blood testy SARS men. They incidentally left the boy and brutally manhandled him, handcuff him like a common criminal and took him to their detention base where he received the SARS baptism.
CEHRD blatantly condemns this inhuman, barbaric act of SARS. We have seen torture and ill-treatment continue to be widely practiced by the Police, especially SARS in different parts of Nigeria in couple of years. Sadly, despite the blanket ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in international law and the `Nigerian constitution, terrible examples like Kofi’s case, cases of extra-judicial murder and other heinous practices happen on daily basis unabated.
CEHRD holds the opinion that torture is illegal and the way it is systematically becoming part of the Nigerian pattern is tantamount to war crime or crime against humanity. No circumstance, however exceptional, justify the use of torture against anyone for any reason. Neither a state of emergency nor conflict, nor fight against terrorism nor fight against crime excuses the use of torture. This practice as meted on Mr. Kofi dehumanizes the victim and leaves scar on people, communities and the entire societies that can be difficult to heal. The healing process begins with justice. We therefore demand that the case of Mr. Kofi be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.
It is essential to reiterate that it is the obligation of the Nigerian State to prevent, prohibit and investigate and punish all acts of torture and all forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It is the obligation of the Nigerian State to respect the physical and mental integrity of all persons, ensure justice and accountability for victims and for the community as a whole, and bring those responsible for violations of justice.
We also call on the journalist/ victim and its trade union (the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State council to explore legal options to seek redress for her member/victim of SARS lawlessness. We encourage other victims of similar abuser to also seek redress in courts of law.
Finally, we will like to state that are dissatisfied by the lack of progress in institutionalizing basic principles and guidelines which seek to provide minimum standards for redress and reparation for victims of torture. It is our conviction that victims must have central role in holding torturers accountable for actions. We would like to therefore underline the preventive function of redress as part of the legal obligation to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in Nigeria.
Director of Programmes
No. 6, Abuja Lane, off Wogu Street,
D/Line, Port Harcourt,
Rivers State, Nigeria.