Torture spreading as ‘glorified’ by TV:Amnesty – In 21-country poll, 44 percent fear torture in detention

[16-05-2014 05:02 PM]

Ammon News - AMMONNEWS - Torture is rampant across the world and has become almost normalized by the “war on terror” and its glamorous portrayal in shows such as “24″ and “Homeland”, Amnesty International said on Tuesday. The London-based human rights group is launching a new campaign aimed at ending torture, which it says remains widespread even 30 years after a blanket prohibition was agreed by the United Nations. In the past five years, Amnesty says it has recorded incidents in 141 countries, including 79 of the 155 signatories to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture.

The global survey of 21,000 people in 21 countries also revealed a widespread dread of the practise, with 44 percent saying they feared being abused if they were taken into custody. Yet over a third percent of the respondents said they believed torture was sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public. “It’s almost become normalized, it’s become routine,” Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty told reporters at the launch of the “Stop Torture” campaign in London.

“Since the so-called war against terrorism, the use of torture, particularly in the United States and their sphere of influence… has got so much more normalized as part of national security expectations.” Support for torture ranged widely across nations, from 74 percent in China and India, to just 12 percent in Greece and 15 percent in Argentina, the GlobeScan survey found. In Britain, which had the lowest fear of torture among all the countries, 29 percent backed its use-a fact Amnesty country director Kate Allen attributed to the popularity of violent, spy-based TV shows. “Programs like ’24′ and ‘Homeland’ have glorified torture to a generation, but there’s a massive difference between a dramatic depiction by screenwriters and its real-life use by government agents in torture chambers,” she said.

‘They get away with it’
Amnesty won the Nobel Peace prize in 1977 largely because of its work fighting against torture, and the new two-year campaign is an attempt to revisit one of its core issues. The group notes how the UN Convention made torturers “international outlaws” and prompted governments worldwide to denounce the practice. But it warns that in reality many are endorsing or at least failing to tackle the issue head-on.

It described police brutality in Asia, where torture is a “fact of life”, and pointed out that more than 30 countries in Africa have yet to make such abuse punishable by law. Shetty spoke of “the cruelty of inmates in the United States being held in solitary confinement with no light”, of stoning and flogging in the Middle East and of the “stubborn failure” of European nations to investigate allegations of complicity in torture. The new campaign focuses on five countries where torture is a particular problem and where the NGO believes it can have the most impact: Mexico, the Philippines, Morocco and Western Sahara, Nigeria and Uzbekistan.

Loretta Ann P. Rosales, who was tortured under the Marcos regime in the Philippines in 1976 and now leads that country’s human rights commission, said there were several reasons why torture continued. It was seen as a shortcut to get confessions from detainees, a tool of corruption or an instrument of repression, and came from a prioritization of “the need for state security over human security”, she told reporters. Shetty said in many instances it was simple: “People get away with it.”

‘Govts have broken promises’
Amnesty is calling on governments to prevent torture by providing medical and legal access for prisoners and better inspection of detention centers. But it also wants an end to the impunity that exists in many places, urging independent investigations of allegations of torture. “Governments have broken their promises, and because of these broken promises millions of people have suffered terribly,” Shetty said. Concern about torture is highest in Brazil and Mexico, where 80 percent and 64 percent of people respectively said they would not feel safe from torture if arrested, and lowest in Australia and Britain, at 16 and 15 percent each, the poll showed.

“Although governments have prohibited this dehumanizing practice in law and have recognized global disgust at its existence, many of them are carrying out torture or facilitating it in practice”, Amnesty said in a new report. Of the more than 21,000 people in 21 countries surveyed for Amnesty by GlobeScan, 44 percent said they would not feel safe from torture if arrested in their home country.

Four out of five wanted clear laws to prevent torture and 60 percent overall supported the idea that torture is not justified under any circumstances – though a majority of people surveyed in China and India felt it could sometimes be justified. Amnesty said 155 countries have ratified the 30-year-old United Nation Convention Against Torture which was started 30 years ago but many governments were still “betraying their responsibility”.

Respect the rule of law
“Three decades from the convention and more than 65 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights torture is not just alive and well. It is flourishing,” read Amnesty’s report “Torture in 2014 – 30 Years of Broken Promises”. Amnesty said it had received reports of torture being used in more 140 countries and the report gave examples from countries ranging from Nigeria to Mexico and the Ukraine.

In August 2012, Mexican marines broke into Claudia Medina’s home in Veracruz and took her to the local navy base where she was given electric shocks, forced to inhale a very spicy sauce and wrapped in plastic while beaten up, Medina said.

She denied the charge of being a member of a criminal gang but was forced to sign a confession she had not even read. “If they had not tortured me, I would not have signed the statement,” Medina was quoted as saying in the report. In January 2014, Ukrainian police detained and tortured 23-year-old computer programmer Vladislav Tsilytskiy after protests in Kiev which led to the overthrow of the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich, according to another case cited by Amnesty.

His hospital report listed injuries including “skull and facial fractures, including of the eye socket; concussion and bruising, including around the neck”. “Rather than respecting the rule of law through zero-tolerance of torture, governments persistently and routinely lie about it to their own people and to the world,” Amnesty said. – Agencies

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