Amnesty calls for immediate investigation of football fan killed by police

“SARS is a police unit created to protect the people. Instead it has become a danger to society” – Director of Amnesty Nigeria

The Nigerian authorities must investigate the killing of a man shot dead by the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit while he was watching a televised football match in Lagos yesterday, Amnesty International said.

According to local media reports, Kolade Johnson was hit by a stray bullet from officers of the Special Anti-Cultism Squad (SACS) – a branch of SARS. The officers were trying to disperse a crowd during an operation to arrest another man.

There has been a public outcry over the killing, with thousands of people using the hashtag #EndSARS in the past 24 hours.

Amnesty has documented a pattern of grave human rights violations carried out by SARS since 2016.

Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said:

“Kolade Johnson is the latest victim of the SARS police squad, which has become notorious for extrajudicial killings, torture and extortion.

“This appears to be an unlawful killing which must be impartially and thoroughly investigated, with any officers suspected of criminal responsibility brought to justice in a fair trial before an ordinary civilian court.

“It is shameful that more than two years since Amnesty International highlighted crimes under international law and human rights violations by SARS, these shocking incidents continue unabated.

“Nigerians will no longer accept the brutality being unleashed against them by police on an almost daily basis.

“SARS is a police unit created to protect the people. Instead it has become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption.

“Much more needs to be done to end human rights violations by SARS, including unnecessary and excessive use of force, extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention and extortion. Wide-ranging reforms must be carried out so that Nigerians can trust the police to protect them.

“Evidence of crimes and human rights violations committed by SARS is widely available, including in reports by Amnesty International, and this should aid effective investigation into crimes committed by the squad.”

Amnesty’s investigations into the activities of SARS across Nigeria since 2016 have exposed the callous workings of a police squad operating outside of the law.

The September 2016 report ‘Nigeria: You have signed your death warrant’ showed how the unit has been systematically torturing detainees as a means of extracting confessions and bribes.

All subsequent government pledges to reform SARS, including one by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in August last year, have amounted to nothing.

In addition to its stated remit of tackling violent crimes, SARS sometimes investigates civil matters and has tortured detainees involved in contractual, business and even domestic disputes. Victims of SARS crimes are often legally powerless to defend themselves against criminal accusations and torture.

Niall Couper

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