NHRC calls for decriminalization of petty offences

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By Editor

Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq has called for the review of laws that are repugnant to human rights in order to pave way for the full enjoyment of human rights in Africa

Ojukwu stated this in Abuja during a consultative meeting on Road map for the Development of Action Plan on Decriminalization of petty offences in Africa.     

The consultative meeting which was organized in collaboration with the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) is aimed at galvanizing critical stakeholders to discuss issues of decriminalization of petty offences in the African Region.

Ojukwu urged member states of the Network to consider the use of non-custodial actions as alternatives to conventional sentencing, saying petty offences should not attract any form of sentencing.

The Chief Human Rights Officer noted that most of the awaiting trial inmates in our correctional centers are arrested for minor offences like begging, hawking, loitering, failure to pay debts, etc. He noted that a good number of such inmates have been held in custody for longer than necessary, in flagrant violation of their human rights as guaranteed by the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights.

He therefore called on key stakeholders in the criminal justice system to be committed in pushing for best practices in the administration of criminal justice, bearing in mind that petty offences have a strong link with poverty as well as social and economic issues that affect the dignity of the human person. 

He said the national human rights commission as a key stakeholder in the criminal justice system has been involved in initiatives geared towards reforms in correctional service in the county and that it will continue to highlight and push for more initiative and best practices in the criminal justice system.

Chairman, House Committee on Human Rights, Rt Hon. John Dyegh who was represented by his deputy, Hon Kawu Simon Elisha, stated that petty offences grossly violate the rights and freedom of the perpetrators, adding that the degree of offences are not sufficient for confinement in correctional centers or restriction of movement what so ever.

 He called for the sensitization of law enforcement agencies as well as correctional service personnel on offences sufficient for arrest in order to reduce prison congestion.  

Speaking on behalf of NANHRI, the Programme Officer NANRI Phanice Akinyi Odhacha stated that her organization has a great interest in decriminalization of petty offences in Africa. She was optimistic of major reform in the justice system saying the commission is empowered to champion the course.

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