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Amnesty International Calls for Prohibition on Torture


Amnesty International is calling for an absolute prohibition on torture and ill-treatment in all circumstances, including the war on terrorism. Amnesty says it will be pushing for action on this issue at the Commission meeting when it begins its annual session next week in Geneva.

When it comes to torture, Amnesty International says there must never be any excuse or any exception. It says torture and ill-treatment or degrading punishment is forbidden under all circumstances.

But, Peter Splinter, who is Amnesty International's Representative at the U.N. in Geneva, says events in places such as Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba show that this long-held prohibition against torture and inhumane treatment is slipping away.

"That prohibition applies at all times and in all circumstances," he said. "We are looking for members of the Commission and observer governments to speak loudly in reaffirming that absolute prohibition."

Amnesty International says there is a long list of country violators that should be condemned by the Commission for their human rights record. But, in order to be effective, it says it will focus on a few countries whose human rights situations the group considers to be of extreme urgency.

First and foremost is Nepal, which Mr. Splinter calls a country on the verge of a human rights catastrophe.

"It is a very serious situation now," he said. "Disappearances, torture, summary executions, suspension of constitutional guarantees and safeguards. The judicial process is not able to work as it should. But, things can get worse and we are concerned that if the international community does not act, things will get worse."

Mr. Splinter says Amnesty International wants the Commission to give the King of Nepal a clear and loud signal that human rights must be protected and the rule of law must be re-established. He says the organization wants a special UN investigator to be appointed and human rights observers to be sent to the Himalayan Kingdom to monitor the situation.

The Amnesty Representative says the U.N. Human Rights Commission turns a blind eye to bad human rights situations in some countries, while condemning others for similar abuse. He says some governments skillfully use this double standard for their own benefit.

"A very good example of that is Zimbabwe, which is a very very bad situation, but it manages to avoid a resolution in the Commission every year because it does such a good job of saying look at the double standards, look at the hypocrisy to defeat the resolution that is brought on Zimbabwe," he said.

Amnesty International urges the Commission members to end, what it calls, their shameful failure to act on human rights violations in countries such as Zimbabwe, Iraq, Chechnya in the Russian Federation and the United States in Guantanamo.

It also calls for strong action against Sudan for the ongoing atrocities in Darfur, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Turkmenistan and the barrier Israel is building in the West Bank.

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