The African Commission of Human and People’s Rights has called on the Nigerian government to conduct immediate, independent and impartial investigations into all the reported cases of police brutality in Nigeria.
The commission through its Country Rapporteur for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, and the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa, Commissioner Maria Teresa Manuela, made the call following the expression of public outrage about the human rights violations by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force.
In a statement issued in response to the ongoing #EndSARS protest, the commission noted that though the Nigeria government has announced the dissolution of SARS, it is concerned that there has been lack of real reforms which has led to continuous violation of human rights overtime.
“The commission welcomes the announcement of the Government of Nigeria to dissolve of the SARS, which creates the basis for taking the necessary measures to address the human rights violations by SARS that triggered the protests and the calls for ending SARS.
“In this respect, the Commission expresses its concern about the alleged human rights violations committed by this unit including harassment, unlawful arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings.
“The Commission is further concerned that while this is not the first time that steps have been initiated to disband or reorganise the SARS there has been a distinct lack of real reform, resulting in continued impunity for human rights violations and a perpetuation of patterns of abuse.”
The commission thereafter urged the federal government to “immediately halt the use by police of live ammunition in responses to the ongoing protests and ensure that that policing of these assemblies is undertaken in compliance with the principles of minimum use of force as a last resort measure to avert imminent danger to life, as well as necessity, precaution and proportionality.
“Ensure the conduct of timely, independent, impartial and inclusive investigations into both the reported excessive use of force that led to loss of lives in the context of the recent protests and all reports of violations committed by the SARS and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.”
The commission also called for the compensation for those whose rights have been violated by SARS operatives.
“Avail those whose rights have been violated by members of law enforcement institutions with unhindered access to remedies, including reparations and compensation, and legal assistance to indigent victims.
“Put suspected members of the SARS on special leave for the duration of the investigations and institute the vetting of all other members of SARS before their integration into other police units.
“Take measures for the establishment of an independent police oversight, investigation and accountability mechanism, applicable to all police and security structures at both Federal and State levels and put in place effective and well-funded structures for reporting of police abuse and misconduct by victims and citizens.”
The commission also advised that the federal government should, “initiate comprehensive reform to address the serious gaps in the policies, laws, regulations and guidelines regulating the conduct of law enforcement institutions, including in terms of the use of force, in the doctrine and training of members of law enforcement institutions and in the mechanisms for monitoring and investigating the conduct of law enforcement institutions for their compliance with human rights principles and standards.
“The African Commission avails itself to accompany Nigeria in its effort to ensure compliance with the standards of the African Charter, on the basis of the foregoing, by its law enforcement institutions,” it added.