The Human Rights Watch has called for the prosecution of police officers and other security operatives using excessive force on #EndSARS protesters.
It noted that security forces have been responding to overwhelmingly peaceful protests against police brutality with more violence and abuse.
In response to calls for a curb on police brutality and rights violation, HRW said in a statement on Friday, that the police had shot tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds at protesters, killing at least four people and wounding many others, adding that armed thugs had also disrupted protests and attacked protesters.
“People exercising their right to protest and calling for an end to police brutality are themselves being brutalized and harassed by those who should protect them,” Nigerian researcher at Human Rights Watch, Anietie Ewang, said.
“This underscores the importance of the protesters’ demands and the culture of impunity across the policing system, which is in dire need of reform,” she added.
The group said it has documented incidents of police brutality and abuse of protesters across the country.
The statement titled, ‘Nigeria: Crackdown on police brutality protests,’ read, “In Abuja, police dispersed protesters on October 11 with tear gas and water cannons. Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who participated in or were in the vicinity of the protests and were badly beaten by officers.
“One, a 30-year-old woman, said that at least four police officers beat her with big sticks and batons soon after the police fired tear gas and water cannons on protesters.”
The victim was quoted to have said, “When we saw officers down the road from us had formed a line facing us, we stopped moving and we sat on the ground or knelt to show them that we were not aggressive.
“But before we knew it, tear gas started flying all over the place and a strong force of water followed for about 10 to 15 minutes nonstop. I had a mask on and with the water hitting my face, I found it very difficult to breathe. They soon started running in our direction. I didn’t run because I shouldn’t have to; I was not doing anything wrong.”
The woman also said that one officer began beating her with a stick, and when she tried to ward him off, two others joined in with a stick and baton.
The HRW stressed the right to peaceful protest was guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and international human rights law.
“Unnecessary use of force to disperse protesters is unlawful; protesters should instead be protected by the authorities,” it stressed.