Military

USIS Washington File

17 November 1999

Fact Sheet: U.S. Anti-Torture Initiative

(Revised: U.S. Mission to OSCE Fact Sheet)  (720)
The U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) released a fact sheet November 17 in Istanbul on the
U.S. Anti-Torture Initiative.
The fact sheet notes that OSCE states have committed themselves to
take measures to prevent torture and punish those responsible for it.
In 1997 the OSCE established an Advisory Panel for the Prevention of
Torture, based on a U.S. proposal, and more recently a coalition of
human rights organizations developed minimum standards for states to
ensure effective investigation and documentation of torture.
Following is the text of the fact sheet:
(begin fact sheet)
U.S. Mission to the OSCE
Office of Public Affairs
November 17, 1999
FACT SHEET: U.S. ANTI-TORTURE INITIATIVE
BACKGROUND
In many OSCE participating States, effective safeguards to prevent
torture and to prosecute and punish those responsible are weak or do
not exist. Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or
punishment harms individuals, sends a message of fear and intimidation
to prisoners and members of minority political, ethnic, religious and
belief groups, and undermines state legitimacy. (Safeguards can
include, for example, due process of law and independent judicial
oversight of police and security forces.)
Abuses are reported with alarming frequency. In the NIS, it is widely
reported that police and security forces torture; beat, and abuse
detainees and prisoners; arrest of those responsible is rare. Last
year Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman reported that torture was
widespread. In Uzbekistan, political activists and religious believers
are tortured in custody. In Tajikistan and Turkmenistan,
oppositionists have been targets for similar abuse. In several states
of Central and Southern Europe, including the former Yugoslavia, there
have been many incidents of police brutality against Roma. Torture is
widespread in Turkey, but we welcome Ankara's stated policy of zero
tolerance and its plans for additional legal reforms and human rights
education
Some 400,000 victims of torture worldwide have made their way to the
United States. We are a global leader in supporting the rehabilitation
of victims of torture. Recently in a report to the U.N., we recognized
that there have been occasional incidents of torture in the United
States. This shows that even where extensive procedural and
substantive protections exist, vigilance in preventing torture is
necessary.
Ten years ago in Vienna, the OSCE states committed themselves to take
effective legislative, administrative, judicial, and other measures to
prevent torture and punish those responsible. Further commitments on
torture prevention were elaborated in the 1990 OSCE Moscow Document.
In 1997 the OSCE established an Advisory Panel for the Prevention of
Torture, based on a U.S. proposal. Recently a large coalition of human
rights organizations developed minimum standards for states to ensure
effective investigation and documentation of torture; the Office of
the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has endorsed them.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS
OSCE Summit leaders have fully supported addressing torture as a major
threat, even though virtually all OSCE states have laws banning it.
Reflecting the U.S. torture initiative at the Summit, the November 19
Charter for European Security restates the commitment of OSCE states
to eradicate torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment
or punishment. They further pledge to promote legislation to provide
safeguards and legal remedies to combat torture, assist victims and
cooperate with NGOs and other international organizations. This is an
important, practical step forward: On a priority basis we will work
with other OSCE states to give impulse and greater substance to these
measures.
We continue to urge all OSCE states to eliminate the practice of
incommunicado detention, and grant timely access of detainees to
family, legal counsel, and independent medical professionals.
Transparency is essential to prevention. We support the invaluable
work of NGOs in exposing incidents of torture, assisting victims and
promoting prevention.
(end fact sheet)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State)



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