Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nigerian police out of control according to Amnesty International

A  report by Amnesty International released on Wednesday exposed a shocking level of unlawful killings committed by the Nigerian police force. The director of Amnesty International's Africa Progamme, Erwin van der Borght, made these statements:

"The Nigerian police are responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings every year,"

"Police don't only kill people by shooting them; they also torture them to death, often while they are in detention."

"The majority of the cases go un-investigated and the police officers responsible go unpunished. The families of the victims usually get no justice or redress. Most never even find out what happened to their loved ones."

Amnesty International said that some police officers see the killings of 'armed robbers' in dentention as acceptable practice. The orgianisaiton also pointed out that one of the main issues is 'Nigeria Police Forcer Order 237' under which police officers are allowed to shoot suspects and detainees who try to escape or avoid arrest, whether or not they pose a threat.

"Force Order 237 is so impermissibly broad. It simply gives police officers permission to shoot people. It is against international standards, and is being abused by police officers to commit, justify and cover up illegal killings," said Erwin van der Borght.

"The government must repeal Force Order 237 and publicly announce that the use of lethal force is only allowed when strictly unavoidable to protect life. This simple step could make a big difference to the number of unlawful police killings we are seeing in Nigeria."

Enforced disappearances in Nigeria are rife. Typically, in the first days or weeks following arrest, families are allowed to visit their relatives in detention. Later on, police tell them their loved ones have been "transferred to Abuja". Other times, they simply deny any knowledge of their whereabouts.

The Nigerian government says that they do not condone extrajudicial killings. But they are not doing enough to stop them and bring the police perpetrators to justice. Even on the rare occasions when police officers implicated in an unlawful killing are prosecuted, they are often released on bail or escape custody. Some are simply transferred to other states.

"Ending unlawful killings and enforced disappearances by the police will require serious legal reform and commitment and support from the Nigerian police force," said Erwin van der Borght. "The Nigerian Police Force must introduce a new code of conduct throughout its chain of command – from the very top to the bottom. If not, the cycle of violence will simply continue."

Amnesty International

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