EDUCATING/SENSITING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM OF OFFENDERS HUMAN RIGHTS: FOCUS ON BENUE, PLATEAU AND NASARAWA STATES OF NIGERIA.
This is a summary of a three day training workshop on the Application of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules (UNSMR) and Human Rights Standard for the Criminal Justice Sector in Benue, Plateau and NasarawaStates of Nigeria held at the Benue Hotels Makurdi.
Participants were drawn from the Prisons, Police, Judiciary, the office of the Attorney General and Civil Society Groups.
The training workshop was organized by Lawyers Alert with the support of Norwegian Human Rights Funds (NHRF). The workshop was aimed at increasing compliance with International Standard and promotion of best prison practice in three target States involved in a comprehensive inter-sectoral reforms efforts in the criminal justice sector.
This report summaries the key points arising from the workshop so that they can be incorporated into the planning and preparation efforts underway for possible replication in others States of the Federation.
While the portion of the workshop devoted to international standards focused on content, those devoted to planning were aimed at learning a process that could be applied to addressing ongoing needs for improvements and reforms within the criminal justice sector.
Toward that end, the following objectives for the workshop were developed:
- To increase understanding and awareness of the UN Standard Minimum Rules and International Human Rights Standards among participants.
- To strengthen and contribute to respect of Human Rights and collaboration among the institutions of the Criminal Justice system.
- To empower Civil Society Organization to monitor Human Rights abuses in the criminal justice sector of the focal states.
- To develop a monitoring and reporting process to assess progress and identify new and emerging priorities to be addressed.
Following an introduction to the Standard Minimum Rules as a whole, participants were asked to identify key issues to be addressed during the workshop. Participants were divided into four groups. Each was asked to select a category of rules within the SMR on which to focus their planning activities. The process was repeated twice allowing participants an opportunity to examine eight categories in depth, identify one priority problem to be addressed in each and develop a practice plan to initiate reforms.
The eight topics selected and the problems within each are listed below. The planning process included identifying short-term solutions (those that could be implemented or begin implemented within six months). Following each problem were the short-term solutions identified by each group to address the problem.
Based on the evaluation results, review and findings from the sector wide forum, the following intervention areas were identified for short and long term impact.
- It was agreed that the Criminal Procedure Code should be amended in the focal States stipulating time limits on the Attorney General Office for Legal Advice.
- The Nigerian Bar Association in conjunction with the Justice Sector NGOs should create a network of Pro bono Lawyers in the focal States.
- Further workshop should be carried out based on the model of linking training on International Standards and good Prison Management with planning methodologies to put these principles into practice.
- The forum resolved that it would be possible to add a Training of Trainers component to this workshop design.
- The selection of participants surfaced as a crucial factor for this workshop and must be done carefully for future workshops. Senior Officers with decision making responsibility should be included in the workshop. In addition, it will be strongly advisable that those with relevant technical expertise in the areas that are under consideration should be included as participants ( e.g. the officer in charge or works if the Bore-hole well is to discussed ).
- For future similar initiatives, with addition of a training of trainer component, a minimum of five days in a residential setting to allow for longer working days.
- Considerations should be given to planning for a second tier training and planning workshops to focus on needs identified through this process. Based on the current experience, two specific workshops have become:
- Basic International Standards orientation to familiarize sector personnel with basic Human Rights standards.
- Outreach and planning with external stakeholders and potential partner to plan actions in which they are likely to become involved ( e.g Legal Aid, Counseling, Sports and recreation ).
8. There was a strong tendency among officer participants to defer to their own headquarters staff and more often Abuja as the source for solution to what were often local problems. While the rule of the federal headquarters should not be over looked, there is a profound need to redirect the attention of prison officers to problems that can be addressed by their own initiative and focus attention in such as way as to promote site-based problem solving and initiative.
9. It is important to focus on short-term projects to gap analysis and problem solving. By directing the process toward applications that make it possible to see concrete result within 6 months of planning process, realistic goals and actual accomplishment can be realized.
10. Once the first rounds of problems are addressed, others should be anticipated and addressed in a similar manner. The process of planning and problem solving is one that should become an integral part of the criminal justice system.
11. The practical application of human rights and good prison management principles was a very useful technique in transforming SMR from abstract concepts to practical principles that can be applied in Nigerian prisons.
12. Promote sector wide communication among personnel of the criminal justice sector in the focal states on a practical problems solving level.
13. Encourage and promote more cordial relationships between inmates and prison officers to promote appreciation as human beings.
IMPLEMENTATION AND FOLLOW-UP
Owing to the structural and long lasting impact of Recommendation
Lawyers Alert is saddled with the responsibility of coordinating activities towards the achievement of same in the focal State alongside key stakeholders.
Timely follow-up on the network of pro bono Lawyers as evidenced by the planning initiatives begun at this workshop are essential. The NBA Chairman of the various States should immediately agree for the formation of a Strategic Planning Committee and subsequent take off.
Regarding all other recommendations a Core Group should be formed comprising Heads of the various sectors from the focal States to move the process forward towards implementing other recommendations.
The Core Group will have responsibility for overseeing the final development of the strategic plans, ensuring implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. It will assume an ongoing role in further gap analysis, planning and evaluation.
Lawyers Alert remains immensely grateful to the Norwegian Human rights Fund for all the support especially in the realm of Prisoners Rights in the Middle Belt Nigeria and especially BenueState. This present initiative is indeed very ambitious and if the recommendations are implemented will undoubtedly change the plight of the Nigeria awaiting prisoner, who sometimes spends over 10 years in jail awaiting trial.