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close this bookCountry Report Nigeria - ICRC Worldwide Consultation on the Rules of War (International Committee of the Red Cross , 1999, 56 p.)
close this folderCaptured combatants at risk
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View the documentTorture


Nigerians also see torture as an acceptable tactic in warfare. A solid majority of 58 per cent believe captured combatants can be subjected to torture in order to obtain important military information. This acceptance extends to other subgroups as well. Sixty-eight per cent of combatants think torture is acceptable. The number of those who think torture is acceptable remains relatively constant among those who did or did not live in areas affected by fighting (56 per cent and 59 per cent, respectively). However, there are significant differences when it comes to those who think torture is not acceptable; 32 per cent of those who did not live in a war-torn area would not allow torture, compared with 40 per cent of those who lived where the war took place.

In contrast to the survey data, though in the focus groups and in-depth interviews there were traumatic references to torture, ranging from rape to live burial to acid baths, individuals focused more on their personal experiences than on the utility of torturing prisoners to obtain military information. In other words, while survey respondents appear willing to make allowances for the use of torture as a tool during warfare, focus group and in-depth interview participants do not address torture in this way, but instead discuss it on a purely personal level. This is likely part and parcel of a conditional attitude towards the protection of both civilians and captured combatants. While survey respondents would clearly afford protection to captured combatants in general terms, when presented with the dilemma of a making a personal decision, their commitment wavers.