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Nigeria: Authorities must initiate genuine reform of the police

16 October 2020

  • At least 10 people killed during protests 
  • Hundreds of protesters injured and arrested 
  • Sponsored thugs unleashing violence on peaceful protesters 

Nigerian security forces must immediately end the intimidation, harassment and attacks on peaceful protesters, Amnesty International Nigeria said today, after at least 10 people were killed and hundreds injured during ongoing nationwide protests demanding an end to police brutality and corruption. 

Since 8 October Nigerians have been occupying the streets of major towns and cities across 21 states of the country, demanding an end to police brutality, extrajudicial executions and extortion by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police tasked with fighting violent crimes. 

The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and it is completely unacceptable for the police – whose duty is to protect lives and property and uphold the rule of law – to use excessive force against protesters. The Nigerian authorities must immediately direct all security forces to protect peaceful protesters and refrain from attacking them. 

Empty promises of police reform 

In response to the nationwide protests, the Inspector General of Police on 11 October 2020, dissolved the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and called for the immediate redeployment of all SARS officers to other units. 

Despite the pronouncement and increasingly brutal repression of the demonstrations, thousands of Nigerians continue to protest. They are demanding the release of all arrested protesters, justice for victims of police brutality and adequate compensation for the victims and their families, as well as prosecution of those suspected to be responsible. 

Over the past five years, the Federal Government has promised to reform SARS several times. Despite these pledges of reform and accountability for violations, Amnesty International’s report shows that SARS officers continue to commit human rights violations with impunity. 

Anyone suspected to be responsible must be brought to justice in fair trials. Law enforcement officials must comply at all times with international human rights standards on policing, in particular the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and in particular must respect, protect and ensure the rights to life, liberty, personal security and physical integrity and to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. 

Background 

For years Amnesty International has reported cases of unlawful killings, police brutality and campaigned against the use of torture by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria. In November 2014, we released a report “‘Welcome to hellfire’: Torture and other ill-treatment in Nigeria” that revealed that torture and other ill-treatment is widespread and routine in military and police custody across Nigeria. In 2016 we published another report that shows that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was  responsible for widespread torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in their custody. Our June 2020 report shows that SARS continue to commit human rights violations with total impunity despite promises of reform and accountability by the Federal Government. 

This is a press statement from Amnesty International.

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