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UN Condemns Persistent Torture in Turkey, Saudi Arabia

FILE - The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground.

A U.N. committee that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture has condemned what it calls the ongoing practice of torture and ill-treatment in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The committee just issued its concluding observations on these and other countries.

In its examination of Turkey, the U.N. Committee Against Torture did not find torture to be widespread or systematic. Nevertheless, it noted torture continues to be practiced.

The committee of 10 independent experts said its major concerns included impunity for acts of torture, inhumane detention conditions and accusations of extrajudicial killings.

Human rights expert Alessio Bruni says the committee has received many reports of authorities carrying out extrajudicial killings of civilians. These reportedly occurred while state security forces conducted counter-terrorism operations in southeastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

“The borders, I would say, are almost closed and there are many fights — armed conflicts going on and we received many allegations of civil population killed because it was in the midst of the fire and without any protection,” Bruni said.

The committee called for a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into these alleged killings. The panel also expressed concern about expulsion, return or deportation of asylum seekers and refugees in violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Saudi Arabia also came in for criticism in regard to laws and practices that the committee says amount to torture. Independent expert Felice Gaer says the committee finds the imposition of corporal punishment to be an area of particular concern.

“It explicitly…called for the state to put an immediate end to the practices of flogging and lashing, and amputation of limbs as a form of corporal punishment and that this should be abolished,” Gaer said.

The committee also called for a moratorium on the death penalty, noting its concern at Saudi Arabia's growing number of executions. Amnesty International reports Saudi authorities executed at least 158 people in 2015.