2002 State Dept Reports Condemned ‘Stress and Duress’ Techniques as Torture
Amnesty International – USA, Mar. 7, 2003 (Press Release)
(Washington, DC) – In response to reports that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello has received assurances from President Bush that the US is not torturing prisoners during interrogation, Amnesty International repeated its call for the President to condemn publicly and categorically all forms of torture.
“The fact that High Commissioner De Mello raised with President Bush his concerns about the alleged use of torture by the US demonstrates the widespread perception that the US is committing or condoning the torture of detainees. To dispel these beliefs, President Bush must make absolutely clear that US interrogators are prohibited from using torture techniques by making a public, unequivocal statement rejecting all forms of torture, as his father did in 1992,” said Alex Arriaga, Amnesty International USA’s Director of Government Relations. “The continued failure of US authorities to issue a public, categorical denial that torture techniques are being used fuels the global perception that such abuse and ill-treatment — condemned by the US when committed by other countries — is acceptable when inflicted or condoned by the US. Such neglect runs the risk of placing Americans at further risk as they travel and are deployed around the world.”
Press reports have attributed statements to US officials that the US is using “all appropriate pressure,” that “prisoners are sometimes kept on their feet for lengthy periods,” and that “stress and duress” techniques are acceptable.
While the U.S. government is quick to chide other countries for alleged human right violations, America itself has vehemently fought against an international anti-torture pact.
The techniques reportedly employed – including hooding, holding in prolonged painful positions, and denial of food and sleep – were cited and condemned as torture in the 2002 Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. This year’s report, mandated to be released to Congress by February 28, has yet to be released.
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The following are illustrative examples from the 2002 report:
Common methods include suspension for long periods in contorted positions, burning with cigarettes, sleep deprivation, and, most frequently, severe and repeated beatings with cables or other instruments on the back and on the soles of the feet. Prisoners also have reported beatings about the ears, inducing partial or complete deafness, and punching in the eyes, leading to partial or complete blindness.
There were credible reports that the authorities abused detainees, both citizens and foreigners. Ministry of Interior officials are responsible for most incidents of abuse of prisoners, including beatings, whippings, sleep deprivation, and at least three cases of drugging of foreign prisoners. In addition there were allegations of torture, including allegations of beatings with sticks, suspension from bars by handcuffs, and threats against family members.
Commonly employed methods of torture reported by the HRF’s treatment centers include: Systematic beatings; stripping and blindfolding; exposure to extreme cold or high-pressure cold water hoses; electric shocks; beatings on the soles of the feet (falaka) and genitalia; hanging by the arms; food and sleep deprivation; heavy weights hung on the body; water dripped onto the head; burns; hanging sandbags on the neck; near-suffocation by placing bags over the head; vaginal and anal rape with truncheons and, in some instances, gun barrels; squeezing and twisting of testicles; and other forms of sexual abuse. In some cases, multiple torture methods (e.g., hanging and electric shocks) are employed at the same time. Other methods used are forced prolonged standing, isolation, loud music, witnessing or hearing incidents of torture, being driven to the countryside for a mock execution, and threats to detainees or their family members.
There are many credible reports that prisoners are tortured and mistreated. Authorities use electric shocks, suspension in painful positions, and other forms of torture or abuse.
PA security officials torture and abuse prisoners by threatening, hooding, beating, and tying detainees in painful positions, forcing them to stand for long periods of time, depriving them of sleep and food, and burning detainees with cigarettes and hot instruments. Palestinians also alleged that PA authorities have shaken them violently while in PA custody. During the year, five Palestinians died under ambiguous circumstances while in PA custody. The PA released no autopsy of the deaths.Burma/Myanmar
There are laws that prohibit torture; however, members of the security forces regularly tortured, beat, and otherwise abused prisoners and detainees and other citizens. The Government routinely subjected detainees to harsh interrogation techniques designed to intimidate and disorient. The most common forms of mistreatment are sleep and food deprivation, beatings coupled with around-the-clock questioning under bright lights, near suffocation with plastic bags, confinement in leg clamps, and forcing water in the nose and throat. There are credible first-hand reports that, during interrogations, officials place metal rods between prisoners’ fingers and squeeze them in an attempt to injure the prisoners’ hands, and pour hot wax on prisoners’ backs. There continued to be credible reports that prisoners were forced to squat or assume stressful, uncomfortable, or painful positions for lengthy periods. According to SHRF, in early May, community leaders in Murng-ton were detained, then beaten and tortured, including by electric shocks, until they lost consciousness.
Police mistreatment of suspects at the time of arrest and during detention remains common in all parts of the country. Beating with fists, sticks, and belts is the most common form of abuse. However, in previous years, international organizations have documented other forms of mistreatment, such as burning with cigarettes, choking, hooding, and “kalot marassa” (severe boxing of the ears, which can result in eardrum damage). Persons who reported such abuse often had visible injuries consistent with the alleged maltreatment. There were also isolated allegations of torture by electric shock. Mistreatment also takes the form of withholding medical treatment from injured jail inmates. The Government’s record of disciplining police officers implicated in these offenses is inconsistent. Police almost never are prosecuted for the abuse of detainees.
Source: Amnesty International, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
Contact: Alistair Hodgett, 202 544 0200 x302
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