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Torturing Detainees Is Immoral and Ineffective, Says UN Human Rights Chief

Eritreans protesting in Tel Aviv. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 2017 (IPS) - A Manual for Investigative Interviewing to abolish torture among detainees suspected of crime is in the pipeline, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said today.

At an event held on the sidelines of the General Assembly, Al Hussein slammed the practice of torture and called upon countries to abolish it entirely. In recent years, numerous studies have shown that information obtained through torture is not reliable, and from the interrogator’s perspective, even counterproductive. This is in part because flagrant abuse of human rights provokes anger among communities.

“This destruction of public trust is profoundly damaging. When added to the perception that police abuses and humiliation of specific communities is tolerated – based on economic, geographic, ethnic, religious or other distinctions – it will certainly exacerbate tensions and may lead to serious violence,” Al Hussein said.

Al Hussein did not shy away from mentioning psychological abuse and waterboarding, which had been practised by many countries, including the United States, in its “war on terror”.

Citing an example of a recent case he reviewed, in which a detainee had died from dehydration before his trial, the chief human rights commissioner cited the gaps between police actions and legal principles.

“Officials required to enforce the law should not undermine the rule of law,” he added. “If police break the law in pursuit of law enforcement, the message is one of capricious and abusive power. The institution which should protect the people becomes unmoored from principle; unresponsive to the law, it is a loose cannon.”

This is why a manual, which will be used by UN police officers, is necessary, he said. The Convention against Torture Initiative and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights are also preparing similar guidance.

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