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III. Methods

This report is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in Nigeria in March 2005. Researchers interviewed fifty current or former detainees in Enugu in the south-east, Lagos in the south-west and Kano in the north, all of whom alleged they had been tortured in the custody of police or other law enforcement agencies within the last four years. Twenty-nine of those interviewed were in prison of whom three had been convicted after having stood trial, and the remainder awaiting trial.

The main focus of this report is the treatment of ordinary criminal suspects, who made up the majority of those interviewed. However, those interviewed also included seven people arrested for membership of a self-determination group. In addition to interviews with victims of torture, Human Rights Watch visited four police stations and met police authorities at the state and federal levels. Researchers also met state government officials, Nigerian human rights groups and lawyers.

This report aims to demonstrate clear patterns of torture and deaths in custody by the police in Nigeria today, examine the factors that facilitate this, and discuss the response of the police authorities and international community to the problem. This report does not claim to be a comprehensive study of police torture in all parts of the country; rather it focuses on a limited number of locations and cases from the last four years. This research confirms patterns documented by Human Rights Watch and local non-governmental organizations in previous years which suggest that police torture and deaths in custody are widespread problems across Nigeria, which have existed for decades.

Human Rights Watch was able to document cases of police torture and deaths in custody in seven of Nigeria’s thirty-six states and in the federal capital territory. The locations of Enugu, Lagos and Kano were chosen to reflect the geographical, ethnic and religious balance of Nigeria. In the course of the research, Human Rights Watch also gathered testimony from individuals alleging torture or ill-treatment by police in the states of Anambra in the south-east, Benue in central Nigeria, Imo in the south-east, Katsina in the north, and the federal capital, Abuja.

In the context of this research, Human Rights Watch came across many other allegations of serious violations by the police, including extortion, arbitrary arrest, excessive periods of pre-trial detention, and extra-judicial executions, illustrating the deep-rooted problems that exist within the police and judicial system in Nigeria. Human Rights Watch has in the past reported on these concerns and continues to raise them with the Nigerian authorities. 5 

[5] See for example, Human Rights Watch, “Revenge in the Name of Religion: The cycle of violence in Plateau and Kano States,” May 2005, and “Renewed Crackdown on Freedom of Expression,” December 2003, “’The Miss World riots’: Continued Impunity for Killings in Kaduna,” July 2003, and “Jos, A City Torn Apart,” December 2001. All Human Rights Watch’s reports on Nigeria are accessible on the Human Rights Watch website:

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