Joint press release
Abuja, Geneva – 23rd October 2020
Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action(PRAWA) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) call for deeperreforms in Nigeria that lead to a policing system complying with theobligations and commitment of the country to end torture within its securityforces. The two organisations call for the withdrawal of the military from apurely civil engagement and for allowing Security entities constitutionallymandated to engage and supervise peaceful protests to do so. We also call for athorough investigation into cases of human rights violations and to ensure thatperpetrators account for their actions.
Our organisations strongly condemn the allegeduse of excessive and disproportionate force by Nigerian armed forces in Lagosagainst peaceful protesters on 20th October 2020, in the context of the#EndSars national campaign carried out by the Nigerian population and civilsociety organisations. According to rights groups, uniformed men opened fire onpeaceful protesters, killing 12 people and injuring hundreds of others. Infact, the call to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) echoed a broaderneed to reform policing, targeting law enforcement institutions.
“It is important to note that the Nigerianpopulace used the platform of the EndSARS campaign to exhale their frustrationson nagging issues around torture, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings,extortions, and other human rights abuses by Security agents in Nigeria. Thisoutright disregard for the rules of engagement and professionalism by securityagents exposes a long culture of torture and lack of accountability by theNigerian law enforcement and policing apparatus”, stated Ogechi Ogu Esq, DeputyDirector of PRAWA.
The occurrence of such serious incidents, afterthe authorities had announced the dissolution of SARS, shows that the reformsneeded are more structural and should touch the whole security apparatus. Ourorganisations believe that there is a need for broader reforms: reforms of allSpecialized Units of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) (there are 11 NPFSpecialized Units excluding SARS and the newly established unit, SWAT), thePolice, and of other Policing Agencies/Law Enforcement and Security Agencies.
While we condemn the disproportionate use offorce on peaceful protesters, we equally condemn the attacks on policestations, correctional centers, private businesses and police officers, as hasbeen witnessed in the past days. The destruction and looting of properties byhoodlums cannot be a response to policebrutality.
To assuage the legitimate anger in the land,quick steps should be taken to reduce the excessive power given to the policeand military when they are in charge of maintaining order. It is imperativethat the judicial panels and the National Human Rights IndependentInvestigation Panel in charge of investigating the SARS and Other PoliceSpecialized Units set up across the states and at the federal level conductquick investigations, prosecution and punishment of all identified perpetratorsof torture during and before the #EndSars protest. The trial of these personsshould be made public and counseling and other support and rehabilitationservices should be provided to victims.
“As the United Nations Committee AgainstTorture will soon review Nigeria, the authorities should be circumspect andplace premium attention on compliance with their treaty obligations on tortureor, at the very least, respect the recently enacted Anti-Torture Act of 2017,which prohibits torture”, affirmed Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
In this regard, we call on Nigeria to take concerted actions toimplement the Anti-torture Act, 2017 and other relevant laws that promoteaccountability and human rights protection.
Such a step could prove the best way to win the trust of the protestersand convince them to join discussions with the authorities.
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Prisoners’Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) is anon-governmental charitable organization established in 1994 in Nigeria that promotesinstitutional reforms in formal and informal sector for access to justice,rehabilitation, and social development of prisoners, ex-prisoners, torturevictim and youth at risk. It has observer status with the African Commission onHuman and Peoples’ Rights.