News

Elite Nigerian police unit allegedly tortures suspects

A SPECIALIST police unit that was set up to tackle Nigeria's alarming rise in violent crime has instead become a hotbed for alleged corruption, where suspects are claimed to be detained in horrific conditions and tortured until they or their relatives can pay for their freedom, according to a damning new report.

Amnesty International said it had investigated facilities run by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and found multiple cases where "confessions" were allegedly obtained through torture, where people who had not been charged with any crime were  claimed to be beaten and starved, and where suspects were detained for months longer than the maximum 48 hours defined in Nigeria's constitution.

SARS was set up with a specific remit to investigate serious violent crime, predominantly armed robberies and kidnappings. Nigerian officials deny allegations of torture or any intentional ill-treatment of detainees at SARS stations, saying thet SARS officers receive training in human rights.

Yet according to Amnesty International's report, the unit has become seen as a comfortable posting in the police force where officers allegedly know they can "earn a substantial amount of money in a short time", in part through extortion and in part through the theft of valuables from suspects.

In one case featured in the report, a 29-year-old man was detained along with four friends by SARS officers - not for armed robbery or kidnapping, but after getting into a fight with a neighbour.

The man's wife and neighbours told the human rights organisation they saw him being badly beaten by police officers during the arrest.

When the man's brother went to the station to see those arrested, he was allegedly told to pay 1,000 Naira (about £3) each for every person he wanted to visit.

The family was reluctant to pay, until on a third visit six relatives had put together enough and went to the station. They paid, went in, and were then told that the man they wanted to see had died in custody.

"They said they were not responsible for the death," the brother said. "We were not allowed to ask any questions or seek clarification."

In another case, a 24-year-old university student named Ekene was arrested by SARS officers in Awka, Anambra state. According to his lawyer, the officer in charge of his case told the man's mother she had to pay N100,000 (about £240) to secure his release.

"The investigating police officer (IPO) told me that he will not guarantee the life of Ekene if we fail to pay the money before the end of that day," the lawyer told Amnesty International. "I advised my client to pay. My client practically paid for the life of her son. We did not take any further action because my client is afraid of SARS."

Amnesty International said that over the course of 44 interviews with former detainees at SARS facilities across Nigeria, victims described alleged torture methods, including hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions.

One detainee, a petrol station attendant, said he was accused by his employer of a burglary at the premises, and arrested by SARS officers.

He claimed to Amnesty International: "The policemen took me to a hall. They brought a plain sheet and asked me to sign. When I signed it, they said to me 'you have signed your death warrant'.

"They took me to the back of the building and tied my hands to the back. They also connected the rope to my legs, leaving me hanging on a suspended iron rod. They put the iron rod in the middle between my hands and the leg with my head facing the ground.

"I went limp. The IPO came at intervals and told me to tell him the truth. I lost consciousness. When I was about to die they took me down and poured water on me to revive me. People carried me back to the cell. I was detained for two weeks."

The man was released without charge after lawyers filed a rights case against the facility. No one has yet been held to account for the man's alleged torture, or for any of the other cases raised by Amnesty International, its report said.

The Independent has contacted the Nigerian High Commission for a governmental response to the report. Amnesty International said that in two meetings where it raised concerns with the Inspector General of Police, the authorities "generally denied allegations of torture or any intentional ill-treatment of detainees at SARS stations".

And senior officers told the charity that because of its elite status, officers in SARS receive training on human rights. One Commissioner of Police said: "In some instances, there is special training for SARS personnel. Not every police officer can work in SARS. They need to be tough to deal with the rough demands of their job. And human rights are part of the police training. The human rights manual is simply a tool for affecting the training."

Topics:  crime, nigeria, police, torture



Rural medicine postgraduate training hub for Rockhampton?

Prof Sarah Strasser, head of the Rural Clinical School for the University of Queensland, confirmed the university would be putting in a submission.

Plans to move postgraduate from metro areas to rural/regional

Cameron scores podium finish in first comp

Cameron Winter has finished with a third placing in his first body-building competition.

Body-builder ecstatic about third placing in his first competition

Development fees slashed for aged care facility

Benevolent Aged Care.

Councillors were split over the percentage of discount

Local Partners

Why Chris Hemsworth was spotted wearing nail polish

RED CARPET: Do you think Chris Hemsworth is the typical unpolished but well-natured Aussie bloke?

He's now officially the best bloke in Australia

Rocky venue to exclusively screen global movie festival

WORLD PREMIER: The Walter Reid Cultural Centre is one of eight Australian venues to host the World's First Global Film Festival.

Local movie lovers to judge the World's First Global Film Fest

Testament's new album is a concept album

ROME, ITALY- JULY 27, 2016: Testament photographed at The Roman Collisseium in Rome, Italy on July 27,2016. Gene Ambo

Testament to release new album

'Baby' recreates famous Nirvana cover shot 25 years later

The baby from Nevermind album has recreated the iconic cover shot.

PREVIEW: Luke Cage origin story is a strong addition to MCU

Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage.

MIKE Colter stars as latest Marvel superhero to get his own series.

Kate goes down fighting in heated Survivor elimination

Australian Survivor contestant Kate Campbell.

YOGA teacher's 'good guys' alliance fails to get off the ground.

$40million hotel, shops development project for Mackay

Mt Pleasant hotel and retirement accommodation, proposed at 194-202 Malcomson St.

$40m development to take Mackay to 'the next level'

Projects hoped to revive Rockhampton real estate

There have been just over 800 house sales in Rockhampton this year

Property 200m from ocean selling for just over $100K

BEACHCOMBER PARK: Work has started on a new $19.2 million development at Toogoom.

The estate's developer is offering huge discounts for early buyers.

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

First stages of $25 million housing development underway

New development on Madsen Rd - The Springs.

The blocks of land are much bigger than usual

14% of renovators doing own electrical work?

Landscaping (46%), demolition (43%) and interior design (77%) are also often tackled head on by plucky homeowners.

And 12% said they did their own plumbing work