Amnesty International has revealed that despite a series of reports of torture, killings and atrocities committed by the operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, none of its officers has been convicted for the crime.
AI in, the report, criticised the police for using torture and other ill-treatment to execute, punish and extract information from suspects.
In the report titled, ” Nigeria: Time To End Impunity Torture And Other Violation By Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)” the AI documented widespread human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, torture, and other ill-treatment, rape and extortion by officers of the SARS.
In this new report, AI documents at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020 adding that the victims are predominantly males between the ages of 18 and 35, from low-income backgrounds and vulnerable groups.
“Young people between the ages of 17 and 30 are most at risk of arrest, torture or extortion by SARS. They are often accused of being internet fraudsters and/or armed robbers. Young men with dreadlocks, ripped jeans, tattoos, flashy cars or expensive gadgets are frequently targeted by SARS.
“Often these young men are unlawfully arrested in raids on television viewing centres, bars and recreational centres. They are held in detention and forced to pay huge bribes to secure their release. Those unable to pay are subjected to torture or other ill-treatment,” the report noted.
Osai Ojigho, Director of AI Nigeria, described as shocking and unacceptable the complete failure of Nigerian authorities to bring an end to the gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad or to bring any SARS officer to justice.
She stated that Nigerians were outraged by the systemic human rights violations perpetrated by the SARS with impunity.
“The systemic use of torture and other ill-treatment by SARS officers for police investigations and the continued existence of torture chambers within the Nigerian Police Force points to an absolute disregard for international human rights laws and standards,” she added.
The findings of this report also show that these horrific violations were carried out under the supervision of high-ranking police officers.
AI lamented that despite repeated promises by successive governments to reform the Nigerian Police Force and the “immediate overhauling of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad” announced by the Inspector General of Police on 14 August 2018, gross human right violations, inefficiency and disregard for human rights remained widespread within the force.
The statement added, “Impunity sends the message to torturers that they will get away with it. Impunity denies victims and their relatives the right to have the truth established, the right to see justice served and the right to reparations.
“The Nigerian authorities must go beyond lip service to ensure there is real reform within the Nigeria Police Force with an emphasis on SARS. These reforms must translate into holding police officers suspected of torture to account, ending torture, unlawful detention, extortion, extrajudicial execution and other human rights violations that SARS officers have been known for across Nigeria.”