In 2017, Nigerian human rights activists started the #EndSARS campaign, following reported cases of human rights violations by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives.
Between January and 2017 and February 2019, Amnesty International carried out research in Rivers,
Anambra, Enugu, Imo and Lagos states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The report of their findings was published in June this year.
The report noted that “Researchers interviewed a total of 82 people, including victims, journalists, human rights defenders, witnesses of abuses, relatives of victims and lawyers.
“Most of the interviews were done in person, but some were conducted by telephone. Some names of victims and witnesses have been withheld or changed, in order to protect their identities.”
Vanguard had published the recommendations of the report HERE.
Below are cases of SARS brutality as recorded in Amnesty International’s report.
First is 23-year-old Miracle, who was arrested in February 2017 and detained at SARS detention centres in Awkuzu and Neni in Anambra State, on the allegation of laptop theft.
He told Amnesty International that he was tortured and hardly given any food during his 40 days in detention by SARS, before he was charged and brought before a court.
He told Amnesty International: “At SARS Awkuzu, their leader directed them to hang me. They took me to the back of the hall and tied me up with ropes.
“They tied my hands behind me, tied my two legs together and then tied the rope binding my hands with that around my legs behind me, causing my chest to protrude. They had two already prepared iron stands where they hang people.
“They passed an iron rod through the ropes and then lifted me up by the rod and hung me from the iron stand.
“Then they started to use all manner of items to beat me, including machetes, sticks, inflicting me with all manner of injuries. When the first officer came to check and saw that I was almost unconscious, he went to call their team leader, who then asked them to bring me down.
“They dumped me inside the interrogation hall.”
Miracle told Amnesty International that the next day, he was taken from Awkuzu to a SARS detention centre in Neni, where he was detained for 40 days.
He said he was denied food and water by SARS during the course of his detention, and only managed to stay alive with the help of inmates who smuggled sachets of water into his cell at midnight.
He alleged that eight of his co-detainees died of starvation during the period of his detention. Miracle was taken to court on March 25, 2017 and charged for armed robbery, but was discharged for lack of evidence.
A lawyer, who took up the case of Miracle told Amnesty International that he wrote the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in May 2017 asking for an investigation, but failed to get any response from the IGP.
24-year-old Sunday Bang
Sunday Bang, a 24-year-old amateur boxer, described how he was arrested at home in Abuja in October 2018, by three SARS officers and accused of robbery.
He was arrested because he had visited his girlfriend a few hours before her house was raided by armed robbers.
Sunday Bang told Amnesty International that during his five weeks’ detention by SARS, he was not allowed access to his relatives or a lawyer.
He described his experience at SARS office in Abuja to Amnesty International:
“They took me to the torture chambers the second day after my arrest. One policeman, in charge of torture, came with a bicycle/car tyre tube and a hard piece of wood.
“He tied my left arm with the tube. It was very painful and my arm went numb. He tied me from my palm to the end of my upper arm. They beat me with a stick and rod on my arms, knees and legs.
“They broke my two legs. I couldn’t stand. I was bleeding from my legs and body. My blood was flowing all over the floor. I kept telling them that I was innocent of the accusation.
“The police officer was threatening he would shoot me, if I didn’t admit that I participated in the robbery. I was very weak because I had not eaten any food since my arrest.”
Bang told Amnesty International that his arms were specifically targeted during his torture, to ensure that he would no longer be able to use them to box.
Three weeks after his arrest, the police arrested the robbers who robbed Sunday Bang’s girlfriend’s house, but said they would not release him until his injuries were healed, to prevent him from being able to lodge any complaint against the police.
He was kept in detention for a further two weeks without access to medication. He was eventually released after his relatives paid N20,000($55).
34-year-old Kofi Bartels
Kofi Bartels (34) is a broadcast journalist with a radio station in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He was arrested on June 4 in Port Harcourt, when he attempted to record on his mobile phone, the beating of a young man by three SARS officers.
The SARS officers took Kofi to the station, where he was detained. He described his experience at SARS office to Amnesty International:
“I was taken to a room; it looked like a detention room. It was not like a cell, but a room. My phones were confiscated. Two of the four policemen engaged in slapping me, one after the other and beating me.
“Another two joined in beating me up when they heard I had been filming what they had been doing. For about 45 minutes, I was slapped. I suffered hearing loss at a point.
“At a point they took my shoes from me. It was quite unfortunate. I was beaten black and blue. I was not allowed to sit on a chair. I was on the floor on one leg.
“After a while, I was told I was going to be thrown into jail, that the beating was just the beginning. They told me they would hand me over to a male inmate who was going to have anal sex with me.”
Kofi was released after news of his arrest went viral on social media. The police apologised and promised to punish the officers responsible for his torture.
Kofi told Amnesty International that he was invited during an in-house trial of the policemen and asked to identify the officers who had tortured him.
He is not sure if anyone was ever punished for his ordeal.
The report noted that in most of the cases documented by Amnesty International, the victims were unable to report their experiences to the police authorities, because they were afraid the perpetrators might come back to victimise them.
In some cases, victims of torture were expressly warned not to disclose their experiences to anyone, or they would be killed.
A 27-year-old trader, who was tortured at SARS Awkuzu office, told Amnesty International: “They told me that I should ensure that nobody hears about what happened.
“That if he gets information that I discussed my ordeal with anybody, they would come back and execute me.”