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UN Investigator Says Torture Widespread


After a fact-finding mission around the globe, a U.N.'s special investigator found that, while governments are quick to condemn torture, the practice is common in many parts of the world. The investigator has submitted his report to the UN Human Rights Council, which is meeting in Geneva until the end of the week, from where Lisa Schlein reports for VOA.

The UN investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, says his fact-finding visits to countries have been met with mixed reactions.

Nowak says he was forced to cancel his visit to Russia in October because Russian authorities would not cooperate with the mission. He says they would not let him carry out unannounced visits to places of detention and to hold private interviews with detainees.

But in other countries, in this case Jordan, he says he was able to obtain data despite, what he calls, the deliberate attempts by some officials to obstruct his work within the Criminal Investigations Department.

"I concluded that in some of the detention facilities…that torture is a routine practice," Nowak said. "I got many, many allegations from different sources, but, in particular also from prisoners who I interviewed in pre-trial detention centers…and in the Criminal Investigation Department, I even found what we sometimes called the smoking gun. Actually, we went late in the evening into the police cells and we found people who recently have been seriously tortured."

Jordanian envoy Mousa Burayzat agreed that individual cases of torture did happen, but he said torture is neither widespread nor routine in Jordan.

Nowak found that torture in Jordan persists because of a lack of awareness of the problem and because of institutionalized impunity.

"Although the government always again alleged the opposite, I conclude that not one person has ever been found guilty of torture," he said.

However, the U.N. investigator says he is confident the Jordanian government will make every effort to implement the recommendations in his report, one of which is to do away with the culture of impunity.

He says the government already has taken one positive step. In December, it closed the Al-Jafr Correction and Rehabilitation Center, where Nowak says, detainees ere routinely beaten and subjected to corporal punishment amounting to torture.

In a report on Nigeria, released earlier this month, Nowak said, "I have come

to the conclusion that torture is systemic." He told a news conference he found evidence of police routinely suspending detainees from ceilings, beating them and shooting them in the feet.

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