Amnesty International wants reform panel to probe human rights violations by police

Amnesty International (AI), the global human rights watchdog, today proffered effective reforms in the Nigeria Police Force as a panacea to incessant human right violations in Nigeria.

Amnesty International’s Africa Programme director, Erwin van der Borght, said the committee constituted by the Federal Government to undertake the reorganization of the police must pay particular attention to the spate of human rights abuses in the country in order to halt the vicious cycle of violence.

“The government’s initiative to make the police force a more capable and credible organization is very welcome,” Mr Borght said. “But in order to re-establish public confidence in the force, it is imperative that the reform process tackles impunity and corruption.

“The committee must establish the facts about violations of human rights by the police; investigate all reports of violations and, if enough admissible evidence is gathered, recommend the suspected perpetrators for prosecution as well as ensure full and effective reparation to the victims and their families.

“Ending human rights violations by the Nigerian police will require legal reform, plus the commitment and support of government and those within the police force.”

The Nigeria Police have often been accused of perpetrating human rights violations, particularly in the areas of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, excessive use of force and torture as well as other inhuman treatment of citizens.

Investigations into such abuses have rarely been initiated or acted upon to bring perpetrators to justice.

According to AI, the police stations lack the resources to investigate complex crimes that require specialized skills, adding that although all police stations are obliged to keep records, many do not adequately document their work, thus there is no database for fingerprints, no systematic forensic investigation methodology and insufficient budget for investigations.

“Policing in Nigeria is dangerous work. Police staff do not have the tools or the training to deal with the high crime rate in the country. Most police stations are badly maintained and poorly equipped. Officers do not have enough basic equipment, such as bullet-proof vests or handcuffs.

“In spite of repeated pledge by the Federal Government to address the problems in the criminal justice system, improve access to justice as well as reform the police force for effective performance, it failed to act on several recommendations for improvement from various review panels in recent years.  

“A review of the Police Act (1990) began in 2004, but the draft bill has been pending since October 2006, while laws, regulations and codes of conduct to protect human rights are often not enforced.

“The Nigerian police force must introduce a new code of conduct throughout its chain of command – from the very top to the very bottom. If not, the cycle of violence will continue,” Mr. van der Borght said.

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