Nigeria’s foremost human rights body, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has kicked against the recent amendment of the Kaduna State Penal Code Law No.5 of 2017, that allows the state governor to castrate rape offenders.
The amended penal code provides stiffer penalties to the offence of rape, including castration of offenders.
However, the NHRC is of the opinion that castration in this regard negates human rights standards and principles and therefore should be jettisoned.
The Commission is therefore calling on the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai to withhold his assent to the amended Penal Code Law until the State Assembly expunges the aspect of the law that stipulates castration of culprits “because this is contrary to Section 34 (1)(a) of the Constitution of Nigeria and its implementation, therefore, constitutes a violation of the right to dignity of the human person”.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, who stated this in Abuja Monday while reacting to new Kaduna State House of Assembly legislation on rape and other Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), observed that the said amendments violate Section 2(ix) of the Anti-Torture Act of 2017, which outlaws “mutilation such as amputation of essential parts of the body such as the genitalia, ears or tongue and any other part of the body”.
According to the Executive Secretary, the amendment violates the principal corpus of international human rights norms, including article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“Which means there can be no justification for torture, no exceptional circumstance whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture”, the NHRC Chief Executive Officer recalled.
The Commission, whilst acknowledging the power of the Kaduna State House of Assembly under section 4(6) and (7) of the Constitution of Nigeria “to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof,” states that in this circumstance, legislative power has not been exercised for the common good, for human rights and dignity of citizens of Kaduna State, he emphasised.
Ojukwu, therefore, restated that torture cannot be justified even with criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law such as the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State, otherwise, it will be tantamount to legislating torture.
The Chief Human Rights Officer in Nigeria cited the 2017 Penal Code Law, wherein the offence of rape carried a sentence of 21 years imprisonment for the rape of an adult and life imprisonment for the rape of a minor, and “the Commission considers these provisions to be comprehensive inline international best practices, whereas the new amendment is capable of undermining the progress Nigeria is making in the protection of human rights and advancement of the rule of law.
He stated the readiness of the Commission to work together with the Kaduna State government and relevant stakeholders to implement a state-wide strategy of combating rape and other Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) which will be focused on social mobilisation and communication, enhanced reporting of rape and SGBV cases, effective investigations and prosecution based on the pre-existing legal regime.