Odafe and Others v. Attorney-General and Others

The applicants were prisoners awaiting their trial. They sought a declaratory judgment, alleging that their continuous detention, and t segregation and discrimination on the basis of their HIV status, was a violation of their constitutional right to dignity. The applicants sought a declaration that, as confirmed HIV/AIDS patients, they had a right to proper medical treatment while in prison custody. In addition, they sought a declaration that prison authorities had violated their fundamental rights under the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and a declaratory order instructing the authorities to relocate them to designated government-owned hospitals for proper medical treatment.

Decision | 01 January 2004
Case (2004) AHRLR 205 (NgHC 2004)

Facts

The applicants, four prisoners awaiting trial, had tested positive for HIV while in detention. They alleged that their continuous detention, without trial, in their physically disabled state as confirmed HIV/AIDS patients, constituted torture. In addition, they alleged that the refusal of treatment and segregation by prison officials and inmates amounted to discrimination. They further alleged that their restriction from treatment and the discriminatory treatment by prison officials and inmates amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Decision and Reasoning

The Court held that, as of the time the report was signed in 2002, the applicants had been awaiting trial for an unreasonable period of time. The first applicant had been awaiting trial for three years and eleven months, the second applicant for four years and eight months, the third applicant for two years and four months and the fourth applicant (reported dead) for three years and eight months. It also held that whether the applicants were brought before a court or not, they each had a right to be treated for any serious disease, such as HIV and AIDS.

The Court therefore stated that the failure of the State to provide medical treatment to the applicants during their detention amounted to torture and was not in compliance with the provisions of article 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which states that every individual has the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health and places a duty on the state to take necessary measures to protect the health of its people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are ill. It ultimately ordered the State to take the necessary measures to protect the health of the applicants.