Saturday, December 03, 2005

U.N.: Torture in China Still Widespread

BEIJING Dec 2, 2005 — The first U.N. torture investigator to visit China said Friday that abuse was still widespread and authorities subjected detainees to electric shocks, beatings and sleep deprivation. He also accused the government of obstructing his work.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Human Rights Commission's special investigator on torture, told reporters at the end of his trip that certain groups have been particular targets of torture: political dissidents, human rights activists, practitioners of Falun Gong, unofficial church groups and Tibetan and Uighur minorities.

Nowak's visit, which began Nov. 21, capped a decade-long effort by the U.N. to send an investigator to look into claims of torture and mistreatment by Chinese authorities. Beijing has repeatedly agreed to allow the visits and then postponed them.

When asked about the prevalence of torture, which was outlawed in 1996, Nowak replied: "I consider it on the decline but still widespread."

Nowak visited detention centers in Beijing, Tibet and the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang, and held talks with top Chinese prosecutors and justice officials.

A United Nations statement said the organization has received reports that Chinese authorities, over the years, have used various methods of torture including electric shock batons, cigarettes, hoods or blindfolds, submerging prisoners in water or sewage or exposing them to extreme heat or cold.

Based on the information Nowak gathered, he was able to confirm that "many of these methods of torture have been used in China," the statement said.

"Very often an individual police officer is not instructed to torture but is under pressure to extract a confession," he told reporters.

Nowak also complained that Chinese security agents attempted at various times throughout the visit to obstruct or restrict his attempts at fact-finding.

"There was frequent surveillance of my interviews that I had outside the prisons with victim's family members by intelligence agents who tried to on the one hand to listen to our private conversations," Nowak said.

Source ABC


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