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Amnesty International Says Torture Practices Widespread

Philippines -- A Filipino anti-torture advocate speaks during a press conference about the global campaign against torture in Quezon city, east of Manila, May 13, 2014
Philippines -- A Filipino anti-torture advocate speaks during a press conference about the global campaign against torture in Quezon city, east of Manila, May 13, 2014
Amnesty International says torture remains widespread in many parts of the world three decades after the adoption of the United Nations' Convention Against Torture.

The human rights watchdog made the statement ahead of its launch on May 13 of "Stop Torture," a global campaign to combat torture and other ill-treatment.

Amnesty International says many governments are "two-faced" about torture -- "prohibiting it in law but facilitating it in practice."

As part of its campaign, Amnesty focused on Uzbekistan where, it says, torture remains pervasive but those responsible are rarely prosecuted.

The rights group said courts in Uzbekistan frequently rely on confessions obtained by torture. Complains about torture can lead to serious reprisals, including harassment, intimidation, and more torture.

According to Amnesty International, torture methods allegedly used by Uzbek law-enforcement agencies include beatings, asphyxiation, and rape.

John Dalhuisen, the director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program, said there is not a single country in Central Asia, which has a clean record on torture.

Dalhuisen criticized Central Asian countries for what he described as their "institutionalized culture of impunity, incredibly poor investigations that lack all independence and thoroughness, and the political establishment that insensitive to demands of their population to stamp out the problem."

According to Amnesty International, suspected members of Islamist groups are particularly at risk of torture across Central Asia and Russia.

"[Torture is] such a central component of law-enforcement strategy in the North Caucasus that those arrested in connection with armed-group activities are almost certain to be tortured, and indeed trials and convictions rely almost exclusively on evidence extracted under torture to secure convictions," Dalhuisen said.

The rights group singled out Ukraine as "one of the worst offenders" among post-Soviet republics in recent years for "torture and ill-treatment in an ordinary criminal justice context."

"We have documented serial abuses by Ukrainian law-enforcement officials over many years of torture and ill-treatment by chronically corrupt, unreconstructed post-Soviet law-enforcement agencies that really were desperately in need of reform," Dalhuisen said.

"These were abuses that contributed to some of the resentment that we saw expressing itself in [Ukraine's] Maidan [protests], and then played a very significant part in the response and the policing of the Maidan demonstrations."

It says that in many former Soviet republics, torture remains prevalent as corrupt and underfunded police forces use abuse as the easiest way to get confessions and convictions -- as well as to extort money from victims.

Amnesty International also says torture and other ill-treatment have blighted the records of countries emerging from conflict.

In Iraq, more than 30 people are thought to have died in custody as a result of ill-treatment from 2010 through 2012.

In Iran, it says authorities have relied on torture and other ill-treatment as a way to obtain “confessions” which can lead to death sentences.

It says the practice is common during interrogations when detainees are generally denied access to a lawyer.

In Pakistan’s North-Western tribal areas, Amnesty International says thousands of men and boys are arbitrarily arrested by the armed forces and held in secret detention centers, where reports of torture are widespread.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan