An Amnesty International report reveals that the rest of the world isn’t as worried as Americans about being tortured while held in government custody.
A recent report from Amnesty International regarding the global public’s attitudes toward torture shows that people in England, Australia, Canada and even China are less afraid of being tortured by their government than those living in the United States.
The report states that only about two-thirds, or 66 percent, of American respondents said they would feel safe from torture if they were taken into custody by the U.S. government, compared to 83 percent of respondents from England and Australia, 77 percent from Canada, and 72 percent from China.
The report was released amid the launch of Amnesty International’s new campaign to stop torture and other forms of ill-treatment of individuals living in places ranging from Chicago to Guantanamo to Nigeria. It also follows the organization’s discovery that more than half of about 155 states that have ratified the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defied the provisions of the document by electrocuting, beating or sexually abusing detainees, often in the name of national security.
“Thirty years after adopting a landmark treaty against torture, the world’s governments continue to violate it in practice,” said Steven W. Hawkins, Amnesty International USA’s executive director. “Torture is a crisis not only in Mexico or Nigeria, where torture by security personnel is widespread, but also here at home. The infamous cases of Chicago police torture and the still secret Senate report on CIA torture underscore that safeguards are still needed in our country.”
In order to poll the 21,000 individuals from 21 different countries regarding their attitudes toward torture, Amnesty International interviewed people both in person and by telephone in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the U.K. and the United States.
The definition of torture included a variety of commonly used techniques, including stress positions, sleep deprivation and electrocution of the genitals.
The researchers found that 82 percent of respondents across the globe believe there should be clear laws against torture, compared to 36 percent of respondents who believe torture could be justified.
“The results from this new global survey are startling, with nearly half of the people we surveyed feeling fearful and personally vulnerable to torture. The vast majority of people believe that there should be clear rules against torture, although more than a third still think that torture could be justified in certain circumstances. Overall, we can see broad global support amongst the public for action to prevent torture,” said Caroline Holme, director of GlobeScan, the organization commissioned by Amnesty International to help with the surveys.
Of Americans surveyed, 77 percent agree that “clear rules against torture are crucial because any use of torture will weaken international human rights.” However, 45 percent of Americans believe that torture is sometimes acceptable.
Using the findings of this report as evidence, Amnesty International is now asking governments around the globe to step up and implement protective measures to ensure that no one is tortured and that criminal suspects, security suspects, dissenting voices, political rivals and others at risk of being tortured have access to proper medical examinations and legal counsel, and that there are independent groups monitoring detentions centers and interrogations.
In the U.S., specifically, Amnesty International is asking people to work on a local level to raise awareness for the importance of human rights.
“Raising awareness about human rights abuses both here at home and around the world is just the first step,” Hawkins said.
“From the abuses highlighted in the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture that has yet to be released, to the men and women tortured in Chicago under the direction of former police commander Jon Burge who are still awaiting justice, to the detainees who were tortured and are being held indefinitely without charge at Guantanamo, we’re calling on U.S. government and governments everywhere to implement safeguards to prevent and punish torture.”