Global survey reveals real fear of torture
Tuesday 13 May, 2014
Amnesty International: Global survey reveals real fear of torture
• Amnesty International has reported on torture or other ill-treatment in 141 countries over the past five years
• New global survey of more than 21,000 people in 21 countries across every continent reveals fear of torture exists in all these countries
• Nearly half of respondents fear torture if taken into custody
• More than 80% want strong laws to protect them from torture
Torture is rife across the world, with some of New Zealand’s regional neighbours among the worst offenders, Amnesty International said today as it released the results of a global poll.
“Torture is not just alive and well – it is flourishing in many parts of the world including our own backyard,” said Grant Bayldon, Amnesty International’s Executive Director in New Zealand.
“As more governments seek to justify torture in the name of national security, the steady progress made in this field over the last thirty years is being eroded.”
A worldwide Globescan survey commissioned by Amnesty International has revealed that almost half the world’s population fear they would be at risk of torture if taken into custody in their country.
“It is a shocking fact that so many people fear torture – in some countries the majority of those polled,” said Grant Bayldon.
“And this isn’t just an issue that is limited to a few rogue states, but is endemic throughout the Asia-Pacific region, with governments failing on their promises to stamp it out”
Amnesty International has reported on torture or other forms of ill-treatment in at least 141 countries from every region of the world over the past five years – virtually every country in which it works.
In a number of Asia-Pacific countries the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is routine – and accepted by many as a legitimate response to high levels of crime.
In 2014, thirty years after the UN adopted the 1984 Convention Against Torture – which commits all states parties to combating the abuse - Amnesty International observed at least 23 Asia-Pacific countries still torturing or ill-treating. Given the secretive nature of the abuse, the true number is likely to be higher.
Torture is used by governments against a range of individuals across Asia-Pacific. It is used to force confessions or to silence activists in countries such as China, India, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam.
Impunity for torturers and denial of justice and reparations to victims are the norm across the region.
In Fiji Amnesty International has recorded several instances torture carried out by security forces. Just last year a nine minute video was released online showing the torture and sexual assault of two men. One year on there is no credible evidence to suggest the incident has been investigated.
The figures from the Globescan survey have been released alongside a new media briefing, Torture in 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises, which looks at why and when torture is inflicted and at the most common methods used.
The briefing shows why government denials that torture occurs ring hollow, that there is irrefutable evidence that torture is truly a global crisis which is why Amnesty International’s global campaign to Stop Torture, launched today, is so urgently needed in 2014.
Amnesty International is calling on governments around the world to put in place protective mechanisms to prevent and punish torture – such as proper medical examinations, prompt access to lawyers and courts, independent checks on places of detention, effective investigations of torture allegations, the prosecution of suspects and proper redress for victims.
“Thirty years after the adoption of the UN Convention against Torture, it is well overdue that governments in Asia Pacific stepped up to their responsibilities to stop torture.Countries must stop paying lip service to their commitment to end torture. Signing up to international treaties is important but not enough. It must be backed up with concrete action,” said Grant Bayldon.
• Justice is out of reach for most torture survivors in the Philippines. A secret detention facility was recently discovered where police officers abused detainees “for fun”. Police officers reportedly spun a “wheel of torture” to decide how to torture prisoners. Media coverage led to an internal investigation and some officers being dismissed, but Amnesty International is calling for a thorough and impartial investigation which will lead to the prosecution in court of the officers involved. Most acts of police torture remain unreported and torture survivors continue to suffer in silence.
• Torture and other ill-treatment are officially illegal in China, but in practice beatings, electrocutions, forced injection of drugs and the denial of medical treatment are regularly used to intimidate and punish dissidents or ordinary criminals. China last year announced the closure of its notorious “Re-education Through Labour” camps, but the change has been mostly cosmetic with authorities simply using new forms of detention to arbitrarily hold and torture dissidents.
• In Nigeria, police and military personnel use torture as a matter of routine. When Moses Akatugba was arrested by soldiers he was 16 years old. He said they beat him and shot him in the hand. According to Moses he was then transferred to the police, who hanged him by his limbs for hours at a police station. Moses says he was tortured into signing a “confession”that he was involved in a robbery. The allegation that he confessed as a result of torture was never fully investigated. In November 2013, after eight years waiting for a verdict, Moses was sentenced to death.
• Authorities in Sri Lanka still routinely torture detainees. In 2012 at least five people died as a result of torture and police brutality; Sri Lanka’s National Human Rights Commission registered 86 complaints of torture in the first three months of 2013 alone. The government makes liberal use of a draconian anti-terror law to detain people arbitrarily for long periods.