Nigeria police 'illegally kill hundreds a year'

Current Nigerian law allows security forces to shoot suspects and detainees who attempt to escape or avoid arrest.

Nigeria police 'illegally kill hundreds a year'

Hundreds of Nigerians are unlawfully killed by corrupt and ill-trained police officers each year and authorities are ignoring the problem, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

In a two-year investigation, Amnesty found rampant human rights violations including torture and executions of suspects committed by Nigerian police officers.

"The Nigerian police are responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings every year," said Erwin van der Borght, director of Amnesty's Africa programme.

"The majority of the cases go uninvestigated and the police officers responsible go unpunished."

Armed robbery and kidnappings are common in Africa's biggest energy producer, especially in the oil-producing Niger Delta, with the security forces often overpowered by criminal gangs.

With low pay, minimal training and old equipment, police officers have often been accused of shooting first and asking questions later. More than 100 officers are killed in gunbattles with criminals each year, Amnesty said.

"Many unlawful killings happen during police operations. In other cases, the police shoot and kill drivers who fail to pay them bribes at checkpoints," the report said.

Official government figures estimate the police killed 3,014 suspected criminals between 2003 and 2008, but Amnesty believed the numbers were much higher.

Nigeria's police, with a staff of around 370,000, acknowledged that there were problems within the agency and said they were taking steps to address them, including investigating cases highlighted by Amnesty.

"We have some challenges in our law enforcement duties. We are training our officers on the use of firearms in respect of human rights," said police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu.

"Let the public be assured that the Nigerian police force does not consort with murderers in uniform."

Amnesty called on the police force to prohibit officers from using lethal force unless it was unavoidable to protect life.

Current Nigerian law allows security forces to shoot suspects and detainees who attempt to escape or avoid arrest.

The rights group also urged reforms in the criminal justice system and more government funding for police training and equipment.

Human Rights Watch said last month the government had yet to punish any security officers involved in last year's religious clashes that killed hundreds in the central city of Jos.

The group accused the police and military of unlawfully killing more than 130 Nigerians, mostly young Muslim men, in two days of fighting.



Reuters

Last Mod: 09 Aralık 2009, 15:18
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