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Nigerian police routinely torture suspects, shooting them in the legs, beating them and hanging them from the ceiling for long periods, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture said on Friday.
• Says police beat, shoot suspects in legs, hang them from ceiling for long periods
• Manfred Nowak: Neglect of injuries caused by torture worse than any he's seen
• In Lagos, Nowak found filthy, crowded room police called "torture room"
• Little evidence of torture in prison, but detainees await trial for years
ABUJA, Nigeria (Reuters) -- Nigerian police routinely torture suspects, shooting them in the legs, beating them and hanging them from the ceiling for long periods, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture said on Friday.
Manfred Nowak said he had also seen cases of medical neglect of injuries caused by torture that were worse than any he had come across in other countries.
"As far as the police is concerned, I have come to the conclusion that torture is systemic," Nowak told a news conference at the end of a one-week visit to Nigeria.
"It is a routine practice. Detainees are beaten up. They are suspended from the ceiling for prolonged periods and beaten in that position as a way for the police to extract confessions or other information," he said.
At a criminal investigation department center he visited in Lagos, Nowak found a room that police openly referred to as the "torture room."
The filthy room was packed with 125 suspects, many of whom had been tortured. The detainees were not being given enough food or water. The youngest person there was 12 years old.
Some detainees had been shot in the lower legs and their wounds were badly infected. They had seen no doctor.
"There were several detainees there who had very serious infections and were in imminent danger of dying because they were being denied medical assistance," Nowak said.
Cites corrupt judiciary, poor policing
The main reason for this state of affairs is total impunity, he said. Not one police officer has been convicted of torture and it is impossible for victims to seek redress.
Poor policing and a dysfunctional judiciary are among the legacies of decades of corruption in Africa's most populous country, which was ruled by the army for most of its history since independence in 1960.
Nowak said the government had started some reforms in the administration of justice since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999 but there were few tangible results.
He said the system discriminated against the poor because those who could afford it could pay lawyers and meet bail conditions, while those who couldn't were left at the mercy of police who would detain them for months in appalling conditions.
Nowak also visited prisons, where he found there was little evidence of torture but overcrowding as detainees await trial.
Nigeria says more than 25,000 inmates, or 65 percent of its total prison population, have never been convicted of a crime but remain jailed because of delays in the justice system, missing police files, absent witnesses and prison mismanagement.
It is common for prisoners to wait five to 10 years for their trials. Thousands have spent longer in jail than they would have served if convicted.
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