Torture still widespread despite international conventions: UN expert

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Manfred Nowak [official website; JURIST news archive] said [statement, PDF] Friday that despite numerous international conventions banning torture and other abusive treatment, its use is still widespread around the world. Reporting [press release] to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the UN General Assembly, Nowak praised the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the UN Convention Against Torture [texts] and other global and regional efforts to stem abuse, but said that the agreements alone had failed to improve conditions in numerous countries. Nowak said that the reliance of many criminal justice systems on confessions, combined with the isolation in which suspects are held creates conditions that promote and conceal abusive treatment. He also said that frequently the isolated, harsh conditions in which detainees are held themselves constitute inhuman treatment independent of any physical coercion, and that detainees with disabilities or that are held in solitary confinement are at greatest risk of mistreatment. Summarizing his findings, Nowak said in the statement:

...it is very unclear whether the scale on which torture and other forms of ill-treatment are committed worldwide has actually decreased. Based on my work as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, including numerous fact finding missions and unannounced visits to places of detention, I unfortunately have observed time and again that detainees are among the most vulnerable and forgotten groups of human beings in most societies, that the general conditions of detention are all too often appalling, constituting themselves cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and that torture is still a frequent or even standard practice in many countries of today’s world.
He called on countries which had not yet done so to ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on Torture [text; ratification summary], which creates mechanism design to prevent such abuse. VOA has more.

Earlier this month, thirteen UN experts urged the international community to respect the rights of detainees [statement text; JURIST report]. The statement of the 13 special rapporteurs, including Nowak and Philip Alston [official website; JURIST news archive], the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, came as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] recognized Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week [UNHCHR materials].


 

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