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Obasanjo orders return of police team in DR Congo over alleged sex abuses

ABUJA, 12 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - President Olusegun Obasanjo's government ordered the return of 120 Nigerian police officers serving in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo after some of them were accused of sexual abuses, police officials said on Monday.

Haz Iwendi, Nigerian police spokesman, said a deputy inspector general of police in charge of operations, Mike Okiro, has gone to the Congolese capital Kinshasa to bring back the contingent and receive full details of allegations against some members of the team.

Sexual misconduct is part of the allegations, Iwendi told IRIN. Though only 10 people are accused, the whole team has been ordered to come home.

The Nigeria police prides itself on a record of good conduct during peacekeeping operations and will do what is necessary to maintain it, the police spokesman said. Nigerian police teams are currently serving in 19 countries around the world, he added.

A report released in July by New York-based Human Rights Watch said corruption, torture and killing of suspects by police officials was rampant in Nigeria and largely went unpunished.

A UN human rights expert on an official visit to review the human rights situation in Nigeria earlier in the year said that police commonly use charges of armed robbery as a pretext for detaining people and extorting money from them.

Police were also guilty of excessive force, often resulting in death, said the expert.

In August, Obasanjo made an unusual public acknowledgement of police atrocities, listing violations including extrajudicial killings and torture. He pledged government action to end the trend.

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