Amnesty international wants Nigeria to show genuine commitment to end torture

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To mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Amnesty International has advised Nigerian authorities to do more to end the ongoing use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by law enforcement agencies.

It said despite recent government measures aimed at reducing the use of torture in the country, “it continues to receive regular reports of torture and other ill-treatment in military and police custody.”

“Moreover, victims are still being denied justice, with the Nigerian judicial system failing to prevent or punish torture, perpetuating a culture of impunity,” the global agency said via a press release on Wednesday.

“Although steps have been taken to address torture in Nigeria, including the enactment of the Anti-Torture Act in December 2017 and the setting up of the presidential panel on reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) the use of torture by the police and others is still widespread,” said Osai Ojigho, Director Amnesty International Nigeria.

“Our research also shows that despite an existing law against the use of torture, no police officer has been charged under the act. Moreover, the Nigerian police are yet to amend Force Order 237 which allows police officers to shoot at fleeing suspects, giving room for lethal use of force that sometimes leads to extrajudicial killings.

“On 5 March 2018 a high court in Ogidi, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State ordered the Nigeria Police Force to pay compensation to Ugochukwu Oraefo for extortion, illegal arrest, unlawful detention and torture after he was arrested by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Awkuzu, Anambra state. The police have neither paid the victim nor ensured that the police officers involved have been brought to justice.

“Amnesty International highlighted rampant torture and ill-treatment especially by the SARS police unit in the report: Nigeria: ‘You Have Signed Your Death Warrant’ in 2016, yet shocking incidents of torture still continue. Every now and then videos of police officers or soldiers torturing suspects surface and generate outrage.

The agency charged Nigerian authorities to declare in strong terms, that security personnel will be held accountable for torture and that victims of torture will get justice, including rehabilitation and compensation.

Giving background to its claims, the agency said, “In 2018, Nigerian activists launched a nationwide social media campaign #EndSARS, demanding an end to torture and other ill-treatment by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SAR), a special police squad created to fight armed robbery cases.

“In response, the police authorities acknowledged that SARS has been responsible for widespread violations and announced some reforms, while the government directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a panel to investigate the activities of SARS.

“The panel submitted its report in May 2019. An Amnesty International poll in May 2019 indicated that 63 per cent of poll respondents regard torture and unlawful killings by the police, as the most serious human rights violation they want the government to address.”

Torture is prohibited under international law.

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