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Nigeria Confronts Police Abuses

Police officers and representatives of civil rights groups in Nigeria recently attended a government-sponsored human rights workshop in Abuja, the country's capital. The two-day session was held in response to charges that Nigerian police violate the rights of Nigerian citizens.

Olusegun Obassanjo, Nigeria's president, said steps will be taken to end police abuses. Mr. Obassanjo said, "Nigeria is a signatory to the international charter on human rights and since these rights are entrenched in our constitution, we are honor bound to make sure that no acts that might have negative implications for civil liberties in the country are condoned."

Nigerian police officers are being investigated in the last June killing of six Ibo tribesman. Chuma Ubani heads Nigeria's Civil Liberties Organization:

"To begin to tackle the problem, the [Nigerian] government has to first of all appreciate that there is indeed a case. The police are killing innocent people. The Ibo killing that is already under investigation is not an isolated case. It is not an exceptional case. It is, in fact, typical of the situation in the rest of the country."

In July, Human Rights Watch, an independent monitoring group, issued a report that included graphic testimony from witnesses who say they were tied up, beaten, and subjected to sexual torture while in police custody.

In its most recent human rights report, the U.S. State Department says the Nigeria government's "human rights record remained poor, and the [Nigerian government] continued to commit serious abuses." The report noted, however, that there were fewer reported incidents of torture by security agents than in previous years.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says that the U.S. speaks out on human rights with both friends and other countries. Human rights, he says, is an issue the U.S. speaks "with the Nigerian government about, in a[n] open and frank manner... [and] with mutual respect."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.