Sola Ojo, Kaduna
As public debate on a controversial Hate Speech bill before the Nigerian Senate heats up, rights organisation Advocats Sans Frontiers (Lawyers Without Borders) has weighed in on the development, describing the bill which had proposed the death penalty for Hate Speech as attempt to discriminate against the poor.
Head of the organisation in Nigeria Angela Uwandu said that it was unfortunate that Nigeria still has capital punishment laws at a time the world is moving away from the practice.
Advocats SANS Frontiers France with the support of the European Union had organised a two-day training for selected civil society organisations and media in Kaduna on human rights monitoring, documentation and reporting under its Strengthening the National Actors Capacities and Advocation for Ending Severe Human Rights Violations in Nigeria (SAFE).
Angela in an interview told Daily Sun that the “death penalty is barbaric, inhumane and a violation of the right to life” which should be condemned in its entirety.
Speaking on the “issue of death penalty for Hate Speech,” Angela said “it is important to highlight that it is barbaric, it is inhumane and it is the violation of right to life. So, when we call for abolition of death penalty, we are actually calling for the promotion of right to life because life is sacrosanct.
“Where there is miscarriage of justice in the application of death penalty, we have absolute no remedy for those kinds of situations, meaning when the execution is carried out and it constitutes a miscarriage of justice, it is irrevocable. So, because of the irrevocability of death penalty, it should be abolished.
“Death penalty is discriminatory. It is used disproportionately against the poor because you do not find rich people walking through the justice system and being convicted. The rich will ultimately pay his way out of the system due to the problem of corruption we have in the criminal justice system.
“Death penalty has not been proven empirically to be better than other correctional options. What we need is corrective action.”
On the training, she said, “there has to be awareness of what constitutes human rights before you can begining to talk about full enjoyment. Enjoyment of human rights cannot be concluded where those rights are not enforced and where perpetrators continue to walk free.
“In Advocats SANS Frontiers, we have been able able to inculcate, as a huge part of our programme, accountability for human rights abuse perpetrators to ensure they are held to account and at the same time ensuring that victims have access to justice.
“The issue of torture by security agencies and arbitrary detention is a huge problem not just in Kaduna State but across the federation.
“The statistics show that 69 percent of those in detention or correctional service are awaiting trials which is a big problem because it shows that only about 31 percent of those in our correctional service have actually been tried and convicted of various offenses. This is abnormal and unacceptable.
“One of the reasons this continues is a result of slow in justice delivery that we have in the country. We understand that our courts are congested with cases which also contributes to slow delivery of justice.
“However, stakeholders in the criminal justice sector have to tackle the idea of prolonged detention. We have several instances where we come across detainees who have spent up to five years awaiting trial for simple offenses in the country.
“This is why we are having this training to discuss some of the issues around torture, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings to ensure justice is served in Kaduna State.”