Woman raped in police cell had vagina sprayed with teargas

Amnesty International in a new report on human rights abuses in Nigeria related the story of a female detainee in one of Nigeria’s police cells.

She was not only raped, but her attackers sprayed her vagina with tear gas.The police then forced her to admit to committing robbery.

“I admitted to everything they asked me. I was not taken to the hospital even though I was bleeding… Up till now I still feel pain in my womb,” she was quoted as saying.

The account is one of the numerous shocking stories catalogued in the new report, entitled, ‘Welcome to Hellfire’.

The report says torture is so common in Nigeria’s police force that many police stations have a designated officer to carry out atrocities such as pulling teeth, choking, raping and delivering electric shocks to detainees.

The human rights organisation said police routinely used torture to extort cash or extract confessions from suspects, even some as young as 12.Doing so does not even break the law, Amnesty said, as Nigeria has yet to pass legislation criminalising torture.

The international rights group said torture was used as a matter of routine by both police and the military.

Detainees, many of them held without charge or access to lawyers, were beaten, shot, suspended upside down, starved, choked and made to sit on sharp objects, according to a new report launched in the capital Abuja.

“Many police sections in various states, including the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and Criminal Investigation Division (CID), have ‘torture chambers’: special rooms where suspects are tortured while being interrogated,” it said.

“Often known by different names like the ‘temple’ or the ‘theatre’, such chambers are sometimes under the charge of an officer known informally as ‘O/C Torture’ (Officer in Charge of Torture).”

– Beatings and tear-gas –

At a news conference in Abuja, mechanical engineer Onyekachi Mbazuigwe told how he was arrested outside his home in Lagos in March 2013 over the theft of a car.

He said that after two months in custody, two police officers took him at night into a derelict building in the police compound and beat him.

“My two hands were tied to the back together with my legs. I was hung in between a window and a ladder for about one hour,” the 33-year-old said.

“I decided to do what I was told to do. There was a statement I was asked to write and that statement is now in court. They (the police) asked me to write that I stole the vehicle and I wrote that.”

Amnesty said in the report, “‘Welcome to hell fire’ — Torture and Other Ill-treatment in Nigeria”, that they had gathered 500 claims of torture as a result of interviews conducted with victims, their families and lawyers starting in 2007.

They include the rape of female detainees as punishment or to extract a confession. One woman described how a police officer fired tear-gas spray into her vagina after she refused to admit to an armed robbery.

“I admitted to everything they asked me. I was not taken to the hospital even though I was bleeding… Up till now I still feel pain in my womb,” she was quoted as saying.

Amnesty’s research and advocacy director, Netsanet Belay, said in a separate statement that use of torture went “far beyond” the torture and killing of Boko Haram suspects that the group has documented previously.

“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 even to the most hardened human rights observer,” he said.

“Torture is not even a criminal offence in Nigeria. The country’s parliament must immediately take this long overdue step and pass a law criminalising torture. There is no excuse for further delay.”

– Not official policy –

Nigeria has faced long-standing accusations of institutionalised abuses and in May this year Amnesty named the country as one of five worldwide where routine torture was of particular concern.

But there is little evidence the problem has been tackled seriously, despite Nigeria being a signatory to seven regional and global agreements.

Lack of accountability has allowed an institutionalised culture of abuse to go unchecked, the group added, echoing previous comments from United Nations’s representatives on human rights and torture as far back as 2005.

The legal situation remains unclear. Torture is banned under the constitution, but a bill to criminalise it has been held up in parliament for the last two years.

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