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TV ‘glorifying’ rampant torture, Amnesty says

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-05-13

Amnesty International said Tuesday that torture is still rampant 30 years after a UN blanket prohibition, and has almost become normalised by its glamorous portrayal in shows such as "24" and "Homeland".

Launching a new two-year campaign aimed at ending torture, the London-based human rights group said that over the past five years it had recorded incidents of torture in 141 countries, including 79 of the 155 signatories to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture.

Their global survey of 21,000 people in 21 countries also revealed a widespread dread of the practise, with 44 percent saying they feared being abused if they were taken into custody.

Yet over a third percent of the respondents said they believed torture was sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public.

"It's almost become normalised, it's become routine," Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty told reporters at the launch of the "Stop Torture" campaign in London.

"Since the so-called war against terrorism, the use of torture, particularly in the United States and their sphere of influence... has got so much more normalised as part of national security expectations."

Support for torture ranged widely across nations, from 74 percent in China and India, to just 12 percent in Greece and 15 percent in Argentina, the GlobeScan survey found.

In Britain, which had the lowest fear of torture among all the countries, 29 percent backed its use -- a fact Amnesty country director Kate Allen attributed to the popularity of violent, spy-based TV shows.

"Programmes like '24' and 'Homeland' have glorified torture to a generation, but there's a massive difference between a dramatic depiction by screenwriters and its real-life use by government agents in torture chambers," she said.

‘People get away with it’

Amnesty also described police brutality in Asia, where torture is a "fact of life", and pointed out that more than 30 countries in Africa have yet to make such abuse punishable by law.

Shetty spoke of "the cruelty of inmates in the United States being held in solitary confinement with no light", of stoning and flogging in the Middle East and of the "stubborn failure" of European nations to investigate allegations of complicity in torture.

The new campaign focuses on five countries where torture is a particular problem and where the NGO believes it can have the most impact: Mexico, the Philippines, Morocco and Western Sahara, Nigeria and Uzbekistan.

Loretta Ann P. Rosales, who was tortured under the Marcos regime in the Philippines in 1976 and now leads that country's human rights commission, said there were several reasons why torture continued.

It was seen as a shortcut to get confessions from detainees, a tool of corruption or an instrument of repression, and came from a prioritisation of "the need for state security over human security", she told reporters.

Shetty said in many instances it was simple: "People get away with it."

Amnesty is calling on governments to prevent torture by providing medical and legal access for prisoners and better inspection of detention centres.

But it is also urging independent investigations of allegations of torture to circumvent the impunity that exists in many countries.

"Governments have broken their promises, and because of these broken promises millions of people have suffered terribly," Shetty said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


Date created : 2014-05-13


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