Torture is not limited to acts causing physical pain or injury. Acts that cause mental suffering like threats against family members is also a form of torture. Although it is strictly prohibited by international law, many countries continue to practice such acts of cruelty with total disregard to the serious human rights violations they may be committing.
DETENTIONS AND FORCED CONFESSIONS
Police forces in countries including China, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, at times torture individuals during interrogation and pre-trial detention, often forcing detainees to “confess” to a crime.
Sometimes prisoners are even tortured to death.
For example, on 1 June 2013, P. Karuna Nithi, aged 42, died in police custody in the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan.
Family members told Amnesty International that his body showed signs of beatings, with blood coming out from the back of his head.
An autopsy report revealed 49 injury marks on his body.
In Sri Lanka – where the National Human Rights Commission registered 86 complaints of torture in the first three months of 2013 alone – prisoners have died after being brutally abused in custody.
Abuse in police detention has also been documented in the Philippines, where in January 2014, a “torture roulette wheel” was discovered in a secret police intelligence facility. The roulette wheel presented a list of torture positions: a “30-second bat position” for example, meant that the detainee would be hung upside down like a bat for 30 seconds. Forty-four detainees reported being tortured in the facility. Ten police officers involved in the abuse are since believed to have been relieved from their posts but no one has been prosecuted.
Flogging is still allowed in the Maldives where courts impose such sentences to individuals found guilty of “fornication”.
TORTURE TO SILENCE ACTIVISTS
In some countries, activists are tortured as punishment for their legitimate work defending human rights. In Viet Nam, dozens of activists are held in extremely harsh conditions to prevent them from promoting human rights. Some have been beaten, denied adequate food and health care and held in isolation for long periods of time.
Authorities in China also punish activists for their work, including by denying them medical treatment, even when their lives depend on it.
In March 2014, Cao Shunli, aged 52, died from organ failure in a hospital in Beijing after officials at the prison she was held in for five months repeatedly prevented her from receiving the medical treatment she needed. In what was hoped to be a positive move, at the end of 2013, China announced the abolition of “Re-education Through Labour” camps – detention centres used to hold and punish people, without charge or trial, including for their political activities or religious beliefs.
Changes, however, have been largely cosmetic and individuals are still held in similarly brutal conditions in other forms of arbitrary detention.
PRISONS AND DETENTION CENTRES
Prison conditions are very harsh in many countries across the Asia-Pacific region.
North Korea’s prison camps are very possibly home to some of the most appalling torture in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people, including children, are held in extremely inhuman conditions, in many of the country’s detention centres. Detainees spend most of their time being forced to work in dangerous conditions with little time to rest. They are punished for slow work, forgetting prison rules, or suspected lying with beatings, forced exercise, or forced to remain motionless for prolonged periods of time. Combined with inadequate food, lack of medical care and unhygienic living conditions, some prisoners die while in custody or soon after release.
In Pakistan’s North-Western tribal areas, thousands of men and boys are arbitrarily arrested by the Armed Forces and held in secret detention centres, where reports of torture are widespread.
Niaz (not his real name) who was held in one such detention centre, described his experience in 2013: “For the first five days they beat us constantly with leather belts across our backs, the pain was too much to describe. [The soldiers] would threaten to kill me if I didn’t confess to being part of the Taliban.” Niaz’s brother died in custody.
Japan is known for holding individuals sentenced to death in isolation for decades, in conditions that are cruel and inhumane.
In March 2014, the Japanese courts granted a retrial and released Hakamada Iwao, aged 78, who had spent more than four decades on death row. He was originally convicted of the murder of his boss on the basis of a forced confession obtained in a pre-trial detention system which often allows torture and other ill-treatment.
Australia is holding hundreds of asylum seekers in prison-like conditions in a processing centre in Papua New Guinea. They are held in extremely cramped compounds in stifling heat, while being denied sufficient water and medical help. Some individuals said they were abused by staff, including being kicked, punched and shoved.
Torture Techniques From Around The World
Torture methods recorded by Amnesty International vary from country to country and from region to region.
During 2013-14, Amnesty International recorded at least 27 methods of torture used worldwide.
This is not an exhaustive list.
Some techniques have been used systematically for years, while some may be single incidents.
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