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25th Jan 2021

Government backed torture is flourishing, says Amnesty

  • 155 states have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture (Photo: Christian Haugen)

Governments are failing to live up to their commitments to stamp out state-sanctioned torture, according to London-based Amnesty International.

"Governments around the world are two-faced on torture – prohibiting it in law, but facilitating it in practice," said Salil Shetty, the NGO's secretary general, in a statement on Tuesday (13 May).

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Some 155 countries have ratified the 30-year-old UN Convention Against Torture.

But despite the convention, Amnesty says out of the 142 nations it monitors, 79 are still using torture in 2014. Another 32 have yet to sign the anti-torture pact. Many justify torture in the name of national security.

In his introduction to a 50-page report released on Tuesday, Shetty describes torture as "flourishing" with the NGO having documented cases in 141 countries over the past five years.

"Torture is not just alive and well – it is flourishing in many parts of the world," he says.

Amnesty's report bases the figures on cases made known to the NGO but says the scale of the problem is likely to be much greater as many go unreported.

A GlobeScan poll commissioned by the group found almost half of the world's population fear being tortured if taken into custody.

The survey polled over 21,000 people in 21 countries between December 2013 and April 2014.

It also found that around a third of respondents believe torture can be justified under certain conditions while a vast majority are demanding laws to stop the abuse.

With the launch of its report, Amnesty says it will mobilise its efforts to stop state-sanctioned torture in Nigeria, Mexico, Philippines, Uzbekistan and Morocco/Western Sahara. Torture is said to be rife in all five.

The report lists 27 common forms of torture.

At the top of the list are beatings, electric shocks and stress positions.

Some were allegedly used in several EU member states and carried out in the context of US-led counter-terrorism operations in the early 2000s.

Eleven EU countries – Germany, Sweden, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Denmark, Romania, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Britain – have faced allegations of involvement in extraordinary renditions and secret detention centres used by the US intelligence service.

The issue was highlighted in 2012 by the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, which described member state complicity as a disgrace.

At the time, French Green MEP Helene Flautre said she had "evidence of extraordinary renditions, illegal detention centres, torture and other abuses" committed on the territory of some of the member states.

All member states denied any involvement.

Amnesty, for its part, notes those seeking justice into the CIA rendition allegations on European soil have been refused "full disclosure of the truth".

Elsewhere, some governments are making improvements.

Amnesty says Turkey, among the countries in Europe and Central Asia, has made the greatest strides in eliminating the practice over the last decade although it notes the recent government uses abuse against protesters.

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