Amnesty: Nigeria 'tortures suspects for confessions'
The report claimed that agents deployed a wide range of methods in carrying out torture, including beatings, shootings and rape.

Nigerian security agencies "routinely torture suspects" to extract confessions, which are then used to secure prosecutions, Amnesty International has said in a new report detailing rights abuses by the country's security agencies.

" Torture has become such an integral part of policing inNigeria that many police stations have an informal 'Officer in Charge of Torture' or O/C Torture. They use an alarming array of techniques, including nail or tooth extractions, choking, electric shocks and sexual violence," according to the report, which was published Thursday on Amnesty's website.

Titled "Welcome to hellfire: Torture and ill-treatment in Nigeria," the report blamed the police and the army for what it called the "routine" abuse of suspects, including children, detention without trial, and extortion.

The report claimed that agents deployed a wide range of methods in carrying out torture, including beatings, shootings and rape.

According to the report, suspects are often detained in large dragnet operations and tortured in order to extort money or extract confessions as a shortcut to solving cases.

The report also revealed how most of those detained were allegedly held incommunicado and denied access to the outside world, including lawyers, families and courts.

In 2004, Nigeria's leading civil rights group, the Civil Liberties Organization, issued similar findings about the police in a report entitled "Clear and Present Danger."

The new Amnesty report comes amid national outcry over the case of a Muslim scholar and his wife who were taken from their home in the southwestern Ogun State at around 3am and held incommunicado for over two months.

They were later found in the custody of the secret police, family sources told Anadolu Agency, adding that they planned to sue the police over the incident.

"This goes far beyond the appalling torture and killing of suspected Boko Haram members. Across the country, the scope and severity of torture inflicted on Nigeria's women, men and children by the authorities supposed to protect them is shocking to even the most hardened human rights observer," Netsanet Belay, Amnesty's research and advocacy director, said in a statement that accompanied the report.

" Torture is not even a criminal offence inNigeria. The country's parliament must immediately take this long overdue step and pass a law criminalizing torture. There is no excuse for further delay," added Belay.

Compiled from testimonies and evidence gathered over ten years, the report sheds light on the institutionalized use of police torture chambers and routine abuses by the military in a country that prohibits torture in its constitution but has yet to pass legislation outlawing it.

The report said the Nigerian military was committing similar rights violations, detaining thousands of people as they search for Boko Haram insurgents.

"Mahmood, a 15-year-old boy from Yobe State, was arrested by soldiers with around 50 other people, mainly boys between 13 and 19 years old," the report said.

"He told Amnesty International that the military held him for three weeks, beat him repeatedly with their gun butts, batons and machetes, poured melting plastic on his back, made him walk and roll over broken bottles and forced him to watch other detainees being extra-judicially executed. He was eventually released in April 2013," the report added.

"The military in Yobe State even arrested and beat a 12-year-old boy, poured alcohol on him, forced him to clean vomit with his bare hands and trod on him," it went on.

Belay said these cases of torture went unchallenged in spite of the fact that Nigeria was a signatory to international conventions against torture and other unlawful practices.

"Soldiers pick up hundreds of people as they search for those associated with Boko Haram, then torture suspects during a 'screening' process that resembles a medieval witch hunt," the statement quoted Belay as saying.

" Torture happens on this scale partly because no one, including in the chain of command, is being held accountable.Nigeria needs a radical change of approach; to suspend all officers against whom there are credible allegations of torture; to thoroughly investigate those allegations; and to ensure that suspected torturers are brought to justice," the report asserted.

In most torture allegations against Nigerian state security forces documented by Amnesty, no proper investigations were ever carried out and no measures were taken to bring suspected perpetrators to justice, the report added.

"When internal investigations within the police or the military do take place, the findings are not made public and the recommendations rarely implemented," Amnesty lamented.

"Of the hundreds of cases researched by Amnesty International, not one victim of torture or other ill-treatment was compensated or received other reparations from the Nigerian government," the report noted.

"The Nigerian government is aware of the problem and has set up at least five Presidential Committees and working groups over the last decade on reforming the criminal justice system and eradicating torture. However, the implementation of these recommendations has been painfully slow," the report went on.

Belay urged the Nigerian authorities to criminalize torture, end cases of detention without trial and investigate the abuse allegations detailed in the report.

"That would mark an important first step towards ending this abhorrent practice. It's high time the Nigerian authorities show they can be taken seriously on this issue," he said.

Neither the Nigerian army nor the police have reacted to the rights group's latest accusations. AA's efforts to speak with spokesmen for both agencies failed to bear fruit.

Amnesty's report comes barely two months after the rights group released video footage showing persons believed to be security agents, along with vigilantes, slaughtering suspected Boko Haram members in Nigeria's insurgency-wracked northeast.

The army had said at the time that it had launched a probe into the video, while insisting that what was shown in the footage contradicted its "operational doctrine."

Last Modified: 2014-09-19 09:26:24
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