Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization has alleged that the #EndSARS Judicial Panel of Inquiry dashed hopes of victims rather than providing restitution to them.
Recall that last year October, the Lagos state government set up a nine-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate cases of brutality and human rights violations perpetrated by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The panels which were also established in other states of the country were mainly set up as a response to one of the demands of youth during the #EndSARS protests.
A statement issued by Amnesty International explains that despite promises of reform, police impunity continues.
Amnesty International's statement partly reads, “One year after peaceful #EndSARS protests ended in a brutal crackdown by Nigerian security forces in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of the country, no one has been brought to justice for the torture, violence, and killings of peaceful protesters, while reports of human rights violations by the police continue, Amnesty International said today.
“An investigation by the organization found that Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 people on 20 October 2020 at Lekki toll gate and Alausa in Lagos.
”Amnesty International was able to establish that pro-government supporters instigated violence at many of the demonstrations, providing cover for the police to use lethal force against peaceful protesters.
“The organization also found that detained protesters were tortured and refused or denied immediate access to lawyers.
“A year on, despite the gravity of these human rights violations, not a single member of the security forces has been prosecuted while judicial panels of inquiry set up to investigate abuses by officers have made little progress.”
Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria was quoted as saying: “President Muhammadu Buhari must fulfill his promise of reforming the police to end the reign of impunity Nigerians have been protesting against for many years.
“Failure to bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for the torture and killings of #EndSARS protesters on 20 October 2020 is yet another indication that Nigerian authorities lack the political will to ensure accountability for these atrocities, and end police brutality.
“Under the pretext of restoring order, horrific injuries were inflicted on hundreds of people and at least 56 people were killed, among them dozens of young people lost their lives as Nigerian security forces used unnecessary and excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters across the country.
“It is unacceptable that despite overwhelming evidence, the government continues to deny the use of live ammunition on protesters at Lekki toll gate exactly a year ago.”
The organization further said it documented incidents at Lekki Toll Gate Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, showing the violent response of the Nigerian security forces to peaceful protests.
It explained that the aim of the crackdown by security agents on protesters was to instill fear, discourage peaceful protests and punish those demanding an end to widespread human rights violations by the police.
“While most of the #EndSARS protesters were peaceful, there was violence, mostly instigated by pro-government supporters.
”After reviewing videos and photos of the protest sites, Amnesty International found that in nearly 21 incidents where violence occurred between peaceful protesters and pro-government supporters, security forces not only failed to take preventive measures to avoid peaceful assemblies from being disrupted, but they also failed to protect protesters from violent attacks,” the statement added.
Ojigho added, “In many instances, the police and other security agents watched as apparently government-backed armed thugs attacked peaceful protesters. In some cases, these thugs were brought to the protest sites in government vehicles. On at least two occasions, these attacks resulted in the death of protesters.”
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