Tobi Soniyi in Kampala, Uganda
The Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Professor Muhammed Ladan has called on African countries to resist the temptation to unleash terror on human rights in the name of fighting terrorism.
He made the call at the fourth African Judicial Dialogue organised by the African Court on Human and People’s Rights in Kampala, Uganda between October 30 and November 1
The dialogue brought together over 300 delegates, including chief justices, presidents of supreme and constitutional courts as well as representatives of regional and international judicial bodies and other relevant stakeholders from the member states of the African Union (AU).
The dialogue, a biennial event of the AU, was designed to improve networking amongst judicial officers, exchange of information and best practices and the proper administration of justice on the continent.
At the dialogue, Ladan noted that even though terrorists denied other people their freedom, governments across Africa should accord suspected terrorists all their rights and conduct their trial in accordance with the law.
He observed that in recent years, the measures adopted by states to counter terrorism had themselves often posed serious challenges to human rights and the rule of law.
He cited the United Nations Resolution 60/288, where the UN General Assembly identified the “conditions conductive to the spread of terrorism” to include “prolonged unresolved conflicts, dehumanization of victims of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, lack of the rule of law and violations of human rights, ethnic, national and religious discrimination, political exclusion, socio-economic marginalization and lack of good governance” but emphasized that “none of these conditions can excuse or justify acts of terrorism.”
He warned that except governments respected and adopted the principle of rule of law when investigating and prosecuting terrorism acts, they would be guilty of the same offence they accused the terrorists of.
He also advised governments to make sure that whatever measures taken to combat terrorism comply with their obligations under international law, in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law and make every effort to develop and maintain an effective and rule of law-based national criminal justice system.
He said: “It is clear that, unless states are prepared to respect the humanity and legal norms which they accuse insurgents of desecrating, they will lose their moral claim and community support to win the war on insurgency/terror.
“In this way, it is the very lack of reciprocity which allows states to continue their battle against insurgent/terrorist groups.”
Citing the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, No. 10, 2011, he advised other African nations to adopt the Nigerian approach to the fight against terrorism by enacting laws that define terrorism and the measures to be adopted to tackle it.
In 2011, the first ever Terrorism (Prevention) Act, No. 10, 2011 came into force with the aim of providing for measures for the prevention, prohibition and combating of acts of terrorism, and the financing of terrorism in Nigeria.
Ladan also called on judges handling terrorism cases to protect the of the accused persons, the witnesses and the of the prosecution.
“However serious the offence may be, the courts should, at all stages of investigations, ensure that restrictions of individual rights be limited to those strictly necessary for the protection of public interest”, he added.
He urged courts to evaluate the validity and legitimacy of evidence collected by investigators and to have the legal power to refuse evidence obtained by means of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, or by violating the rights of the defence, or by other illegal actions.