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HRW: Police Torture Still Widespread in China

  • VOA News

FILE - Chinese policemen huddle near the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province.

FILE - Chinese policemen huddle near the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province.

A new report says that despite legal reforms in China since 2009, police abuse of detainees is still a major problem because law enforcement officers are finding ways to work around the new rules.

Human Rights Watch said in a report issued Wednesday that police still rely heavily on confessions, sometimes extracted through torture, because they lack the staffing to properly investigate crimes.

Wednesday's report says police conduct interrogation sessions in front of video cameras but take prisoners off-camera for torture meant to force a confession.

The rights group says its reporting -- conducted through interviews with 48 recent detainees, family members, lawyers, and former officials -- reveals that suspects may be shackled, strapped to chairs, hung by their wrists and deprived of food and water while being questioned.

Human Rights Watch said it found that since court records were required to be posted online January 1, 2014, more than 400 out of 158,000 cases alleged that police torture was applied. But of those, only 23 resulted in the court throwing out the evidence, and none led to an acquittal.

The rights group says in China acquittals are extremely rare in general. It says court records show that in 2013, only 825 cases out of an estimated 1.16 million resulted in acquittals of criminal defendants.

The report also says defendants rarely have access to lawyers, family members, or doctors unconnected to the police, to help prove their innocence.

Human Rights Watch is calling on China to hold accountable police officers responsible for torture and mistreatment of suspects, to reduce the amount of time a suspect can be held in police custody without charges, to ensure that a lawyer is present during interrogation, and to adopt laws ensuring a suspect's right to remain silent during interrogation. It also called for the establishment of an independent commission to investigate allegations of police abuse.

The report notes that China's measures aimed at ending torture will come under scrutiny by the United Nations Committee Against Torture in November. It says if China fails to take further steps, it will raise questions about China's willingness to conduct broader reforms.

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