Nigeria’s police and military routinely torture women, men and children as young as 12 with beatings, shootings, rape, electric shocks and pliers used to pull out teeth and nails, Amnesty International charged Thursday.
Most of those detained are denied access to the outside world and even to visits from family or lawyers, said the new report collated from hundreds of testimonies over 10 years.
Amnesty says torture has become so institutionalized in Nigeria that many police stations have an informal OC Torture, meaning “officer in charge of torture.”
The indiscriminate and frequent roundups of hundreds of suspects who are tortured in “screening” to find Islamic extremists is more like a “medieval witch hunt,” said Amnesty’s Africa director Netsanet Belay.
“Across the country, the scope and severity of torture inflicted on Nigeria’s women, men and children by the authorities supposed to protect them is shocking to even the most hardened human rights observer,” he said.
Nigeria’s police force Thursday night denied the charges and complained that Amnesty had not presented it with its findings. The police statement said that since Nigeria came out of decades of military dictatorship in 1994, “the police force has significantly improved on its human rights records, owing largely to training and re-training, community policing, attitudinal change and structural transformation.”
The police statement said that the force will investigate Amnesty’s allegations.
The report is called “Welcome to Hellfire” — the sign one torture victim saw scrawled on the wall of a police torture chamber.
Torture victim Justin Ogochukwu described to The Associated Press a “torture hall” of primitive instruments “full of clubs and rusty metal rods, buckets of water, ropes.” He was arrested in August 2013 and trussed to a beam while officers strangled him for three hours in a bid to force a confession that he was involved in a ritual killing, he said.