By Rafiu Ajakaye
Amnesty International has accused a special Nigerian police unit of systematically torturing detainees to extract confessions and lucrative bribes – an allegation police authorities rejected as “totally false.”
The rights watchdog’s new report, “Nigeria: You have signed your death warrant,” quotes witnesses’ claims of arrest, torture, and bribery solicitations by corrupt officers of the police’s special anti-robbery squad, or SARS.
“Former detainees told Amnesty International they had been subjected to horrific torture methods, including hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions, at the hands of corrupt officers from the feared SARS," says the report.
It quoted Amnesty’s Nigerian researcher Damian Ugwu saying that the police unit created to protect the people “has instead become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption”.
The watchdog said that testimony and reports from lawyers, human rights defenders, and journalists allege that some SARS police officers regularly demand bribes, steal, and extort money from criminal suspects and their families.
“SARS officers are getting rich through their brutality. In Nigeria, it seems that torture is a lucrative business,” Ugwu claimed in the report.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, Nigeria’s police spokesman Don Awunah dismissed the report as “misleading” and “characteristic of AI not to verify its report and castigate public institutions.”
He added, “We want to put on record that AI was granted access to our facilities for inspection. We respect human rights and international standard; we don't tolerate torture or sanction corruption; we interface with agencies including the Justice Ministry to ensure things are done properly. We don't condone torture of any kind.”
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