#ENDSARS: The Amnesty International’s recommendations FG ignored
At about the time activist started the #ENDSARS campaign in 2017, Amnesty International, between January 2017 and February 2019, carried out an extensive research into the activities of the loathed Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
The result was a 30-page document published in June 2020, with detailed recommendations of how to make the dreaded and murderous unit work well.
The document noted that: “This report is based on five field research missions carried out by Amnesty International researchers in Rivers, Anambra, Enugu, Imo and Lagos states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, between January 2017 and February 2019, and interviews carried out before and after the missions.”
Read recommendations in full below:
- Bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice
Identified cases of extrajudicial executions, torture and ill-treatment that have caused death or severe injury must be the subject of independent, prompt, impartial and thorough investigations, and officers reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice.
This must include superior officers, who knew or should have known of officials under their command resorting to the unlawful use of force and firearms, if they did not take all measures in their power to prevent, suppress or report such use.
Complaints about the conduct of SARS officers— whether they come from members of the public, from supervisors or from colleagues— should be investigated thoroughly. Those who file complaints should be confident that they will be supported and if necessary, protected against reprisals.
Members of the public should have the assurance that their complaints will be taken seriously and that they will not suffer for having lodged them.
Ensure that investigations concerning cases of human rights violations mentioned in this report are concluded and the suspected perpetrators are brought to justice.
Families and victims of human rights violations must have access to justice, effective remedy and reparations, including adequate compensation.
- Ensure that all police officers, including SARS officers, receive training based on human rights standards compliant practices
All police officers should receive training and re-training (where applicable) on human rights compliant practices.
They must fully understand that acts such as arbitrary arrests and detention, deaths in custody, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as excessive use of force, are violations of human rights and strictly prohibited.
Senior officers should also receive this training. Such a move would be in accord with the aim of the Modernisation and Development Plan to increase the level of professional and personal training of the police.
The authorities should continue to provide on-the-job training and ensure that such training is coupled with careful supervision, through which officers are given clear instructions concerning the use of force and firearms, and are closely monitored.
Officers must understand that the use of firearms is limited to defence against an imminent threat to life or of serious injury, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve this objective.
Senior officers should be provided with training on how to monitor the use of force and firearms by those under their supervision. Such training must be backed by a policy of thorough investigation of alleged human rights violations.
- Reform codes and regulations concerning the functioning of the police to bring them in line with international standards
The Disciplinary Regulations should be reformed to ensure that they comply with international human rights laws and standards. A provision allowing an officer to disobey orders where those orders would require them to commit a criminal offence should be included.
The recently reviewed codes, including FORCE ORDER 237 should be made publicly available, in order to enhance public understanding of the work of the police and assist in the protection of human rights.
Reporting procedures should be included in the codes with a sample of the report forms to be completed after carrying out functions such as making an arrest, carrying out a search or using force or firearms.
A separate form should be completed to report a serious injury or death as a result of force or firearms. A third form should be produced for reporting deaths in custody.
- Enforce the Anti-Torture Act
Ensure that the provisions of the Anti-Torture Act 2017 are enforced and all complaints of torture by SARS must be the subject of independent, prompt, impartial and thorough investigation, and those reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice, in line with the provisions of the Act.
All training of law enforcement officials should fully take into account the provisions of the Anti-Torture Act. All officers, including commanding officers, must be made fully aware of their responsibility to protect detainees and understand that acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are criminal offences in national law and international treaties to which Nigeria is a party.
They must understand that contraventions of these provisions may result in their own prosecution.
- Empower the Police Service Commission (PSC) to carry out its oversight function of the police, including SARS
Serious consideration should be given to the creation of a specialised department within the PSC, for oversight of SARS. The Police Service Commission (PSC) should have enough independence to develop its own processes and procedures and should have its own investigators.
It should not have to rely on the police to investigate allegations of human rights violations. Additionally, the specialised investigation unit must have:
*Expertise in law enforcement practice and legitimacy in the eyes of the public
*Powers to initiate inquiries or investigations, even if no specific complaint has been received
*Powers to insist on co-operation from police departments, including by providing access to all police records
*Powers to require witnesses to appear before the commission
*Powers to require police agencies to provide information on action taken on individual cases, with reasons for inaction
- Ensure that the police co-operate with NGOs that monitor the police
The Nigeria Police authorities should ensure that they respond to allegations of violations and police misconduct that are brought to them by NGOs investigating credible accusations and bringing suspected perpetrators to justice.
TO THE POLICE SERVICE COMMISSION (PSC)
Amnesty International calls on the Police Service Commission (PSC) to:
Ensure that all allegations of serious violations of human rights by SARS officers, including extrajudicial executions and torture, and all instances where there are reasonable grounds to believe, even without a complaint from the public, that such violations have taken place, are investigated thoroughly, in accordance with the powers contained in the Police Service Commission Act.
TO THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE
Open up SARS facilities for inspection and monitoring by relevant agencies such as the NHRC, PSC, National Committee Against Torture (NCAT) and NGOs, and ensure that they have unhindered access.
Ensure that all police interviews are recorded, preferably by audio and video, and must be conducted in the presence of lawyers for the suspect, in line with the provision of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Ensure that SARS officers are instructed that arrests and detention must be carried out in strict accordance with approved practices. Approved practices must be designed in conformity with international law and standards.
Lawyers and doctors should have prompt and regular access to detainees. Ensure that police stations record the name of the suspect, the time of arrest, the reasons for arrest, precise information identifying the place of custody and the identity of the law enforcement officials concerned. Any complaints of torture or other ill-treatment must be registered.
Ensure that newly arrested persons are examined by a medical practitioner, including examinations for any signs of torture or other ill-treatment.
Make clear to police officers attached to SARS that they must not follow unlawful orders to torture or ill-treat anyone in their custody, and that they will not be subject to criminal or disciplinary proceedings for refusing to carry out an unlawful order or for reporting such an order.
Make clear to SARS officers in all positions of command that they may be investigated and will be prosecuted for acts of torture and other ill-treatment committed by staff over whom they have command responsibility, if they knew or should have known about the violations.
Ensure that anyone arrested by SARS officers is brought before a judge within the Constitutional period of 24 or 48 hours.
Take immediate disciplinary measures against all SARS officers who are involved in torture or other ill-treatment and remove them from any position of control or power over complainants and suspend them from active duty during the investigation and pending criminal prosecution. Disciplinary measures must not replace criminal investigations and prosecution.
Train and educate SARS officers on human rights compliant practices.
TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
Promote the recommendations in this briefing report during bilateral and multilateral forums and dialogues with the Nigerian government.
Provide technical support to the Nigeria Police, with a view to improving their investigative procedures and related practices, and the conditions of detention in SARS facilities.
Use all available channels to intercede with the Nigerian government and ensure that transfers of equipment, know-how and training for the police do not contribute to human rights violations.
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