February data update on WhoWasInCommand.com – SARS Nigeria, Mexico military garrisons, new Egypt units

Since December 2017 we have made published two updates to WhoWasInCommand.com, adding a large number of new records, expanding others and making some corrections. Cumulatively, these updates increase the data available on WhoWasInCommand.com by 25%. In this blog post we’ll look in depth a recent restructure of the Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force and give a brief overview of other updates.

Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) – Nigeria Police Force

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Changes in the chain of command of Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force

SARS are a specialised type of unit of the Nigeria Police Force. They were established in each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to combat violent crime. Civil society groups have reported on allegations of human rights abuses by SARS for at least 15 years. In its September 2016 report “You Have Signed Your Death Warrant” Amnesty International documented numerous allegations against SARS across Nigeria, including acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We have carefully extracted these incidents from Amnesty’s report and made them searchable on WhoWasInCommand.com.

In December 2017 Nigerian citizens rallied around the #EndSARS hashtag on social media, using it to make allegations and share experiences of violence and corruption by SARS personnel. #EndSARS culminated in a number of protests during which the movement’s leadership demanded the squads be disbanded. In response, the Inspector-General of Police did not disband SARS but restructured the units… twice. What, if anything, changed?

For a long stretch between 2010 and 3 December 2017 the SARS in each state and the FCT of Nigeria had two different and simultaneous chains of command. Each state/FCT SARS was under the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) for their state/FCT while also being “coordinated” by a Commissioner of Police for SARS who was under the Federal Criminal Investigation Department/”D” Department of the Nigeria Police Force. Ultimately both chains of command end at the Inspector General of Police (IGP) at Force Headquarters.

On 4 December 2017 the IGP announced a dramatic reshuffle: SARS in each state/FCT would report to the Federal SARS, which itself would be moved under the “B” Department/Operations Department at Force Headquarters in Abuja. Thus for a brief moment all of the SARS units in each state had a single chain of command.

It may be that this was a mistake because just over a fortnight later on 22 December 2017 the IGP made another announcement: SARS would return to having two simultaneous chains of command. SARS in each state/FCT would be under the command of the state/FCT Commissioner of Police (through the CP’s deputies in charge of operations) as well as continuing to report to the CP in charge of Federal SARS who was still under the “B” Department/Operations.

So, the overall effect on the SARS chain of command is the removal of State CID, along with a shift in reporting from “D” Department (Investigations) to the “B” Department (Operations) at Force Headquarters. The impact of these restructurings on SARS themselves are difficult to assess. A past reorganization announced by the IGP in November 2015 – which split SARS in each state into “operations” and “investigations” branches – apparently was never actually implemented on the ground. Amnesty International reported SARS officers they interviewed in June 2016 were “unaware of the IGP’s announcement [in November 2015] that SARS ha[d] been split into two units for operations purposes.” For now, SARS is also still listed as under the “D” Department on the Nigeria Police Force’s website. We will continue to watch developments closely, update and extend our data on SARS as more information becomes available.

You can view the updated data on the Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) of the Nigerian Police on WhoWasInCommand.com.

Other updates to data on security forces in Nigeria, Mexico and Egypt

Nigeria

As well as our close look at SARS above we have updated WhoWasInCommand.com with data on police units in Delta and Bauchi States in Nigeria. Further, we have now added allegations of human rights abuses by security forces against pro-Biafra protesters in the south-eastern states of Nigeria. In its November 2016 report “Bullets Were Raining Everywhere” Amnesty International reports numerous allegations of extrajudicial killing, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention committed by security forces against pro-Biafran protesters between August 2015 and August 2016 in Nigeria’s Anambra, Abia and Rivers States.

View the updated Nigeria data on WhoWasInCommand.com:

Mexico

We have extended the Mexico dataset on WhoWasInCommand.com to cover Military Garrisons (“guarniciones militares”) and their commanders. Garrisons can play an active role in military operations and often command smaller units as well. One example of this is Guarnición Militar de Ciudad Juárez which participated in a major military joint operation Operación Conjunta Chihuahua and commanded both the 9 and 20 Regimientos de Caballería Motorizado (motorized cavalry regiments).

In an earlier upload of data we had omitted full descriptions of a number alleged human rights abuses in Mexico. We have now corrected this.

View the updated Mexico data on WhoWasInCommand.com:

Egypt

For our data on Egypt, we have added initial data on top level military structures and entries for police units in Aswan and Al Sharqia governorates in Egypt. We’ve also included a small number of allegations of human rights abuses by police in Egypt as reported by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in September 2017.

View the updated Egypt data on WhoWasInCommand.com:

 

Launching WhoWasInCommand.com – a power tool for investigating security forces

It’s a big day here at  Security Force Monitor. We’re excited to reveal our first official product: WhoWasInCommand.com.

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WhoWasInCommand.com shows the composition of security forces, their commanders, and the locations of operations and bases

WhoWasInCommand.com makes it fast and easy to find detailed information about the chain of command, areas of operation, commanders and bases of the police, military and other security forces of a country and discover links to alleged human rights violations.

This platform is a unique resource containing a level of detailed data about security forces that has never existed before. It’s the result of an enormous amount of work – and would not have been possible without extensive advice and help from civil society partners. We hope that you find this new tool useful.

10 reasons to use WhoWasInCommand.com

We’d like to point out some of the things that we think make WhoWasInCommand.com a powerful and effective research tool:

  1. Unique, high grade research: WhoWasInCommand.com contains thousands of units and commanders from the security forces of Egypt, Mexico and Nigeria going back over 10 years. We are committed to expanding our coverage for those and other countries. Expect more data soon!
  2. Start with search; find things fast: It’s easy to find what you want, no need to navigate unnecessarily.
  3. Refine your search with powerful filters: Your search results can be refined using nearly 30 different dimensions about location, time, organizational attributes and relationships, and biographical details of personnel.
  4. Crystal clear views of the data: We’ve designed simple maps, tables and tree charts to present the data we have in the clearest ways possible.
  5. Check out where every bit of data comes from: You can take a look and get at the sources used to evidence every single datapoint on WhoWasInCommand.com. Also the methods we have used to create the data are fully documented in our Research Handbook.
  6. Take your findings home with you: Search results, along with any dossier on WhoWasInCommand.com can be downloaded into a spreadsheet along with all their sources.
  7. Get help when you need it: WhoWasInCommand.com contains help and tips throughout, explaining how different bits of the site work, and what the data presented means.
  8. Use it in your language: WhoWasInCommand.com is currently translated into English and Spanish, with several more languages to come.
  9. Use it on mobiles and tablets! WhoWasInCommand.com is mobile friendly.
  10. Get your own WhoWasInCommand: The software powering WhoWasInCommand.com is open source, which means you can set up and run your own copy of the platform.

Security Force Monitor has partnered with DataMade to create WhoWasInCommand.com. DataMade has operationalized and refined Security Force Monitor’s data structure, created a powerful open source platform to put the data online, and made a significant contribution to the concept and design of WhoWasInCommand.com.

We hope that WhoWasInCommand.com aids the work of journalists, human rights researchers, advocates, litigators and others working to make security forces accountable to the public they serve.

We’re keen to hear what you think about WhoWasInCommand.com. Email us at technical@securityforcemonitor.org.