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UN Watchdog Group Finds Widespread Torture in China

FILE - A chair specially designed to restrain inmates is seen behind bars in an interrogation room at the Number One Detention Center in Beijing, Oct. 25, 2012.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture says torture and ill treatment are widespread in China and this internationally prohibited practice remains deeply entrenched in the country’s criminal justice system.

The group of 10 independent experts said a Chinese delegation, which presented its case to the U.N. Committee, acknowledges torture is a big problem in China; but, it said the delegation did not provide data on the extent and prevalence of this outlawed practice.

The panel said China's delegation also did not provide information on how many people have died in custody, how many people are being held incommunicado in secret places of detention, known as “black jails,” and how many cases of torture have been raised and investigated.

Under U.N. rules, states under review must respond to questions and concerns raised by the committee within a year after their records have been examined. The U.N. committee said China has not responded to issues raised in 2008 and that they remain unresolved.

Interrogation methods

Committee member Jens Modvig said that among the practices that could easily amount to torture is a sanctioned method of interrogation.

“A sign of this problem of widespread torture is the use of so-called interrogation chairs, which are chairs that are fixed to the ground and where the persons interrogated are restrained with arms and there are no time limits to how long such an interrogation could take place,” he said.

Modvig told VOA many of the problems relate to the alleged crackdown on lawyers and human rights defenders.

The committee itself expressed deep concern about the unprecedented detention and interrogation of more than 200 lawyers and activists since July. It fears such abuses and restrictions may deter lawyers from raising reports of torture in their clients’ defense for fear of reprisals.

The committee welcomed the 2012 amendment to China’s Criminal Procedure Law prohibiting the use of confessions obtained by torture as evidence; but, it notes this legislation has not yet been implemented.

In 2013, China’s Supreme Court banned torture and called for criminal justice reforms, but human rights groups say torture remains widely used.