151. The Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information indicating that the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in Priman Prison in Jeddah was widespread. It was reported that the prison had insufficient space for detainees to sleep, that temperatures sometimes reached as high as 54 degrees Celsius and that it lacked medical facilities to treat prisoners, many of whom were ill.
152. The Special Rapporteur also transmitted to the Government 7 individual cases and 3 urgent appeals on behalf of 13 persons.
153. In addition, the Special Rapporteur received a reply to allegations of ill-treatment of Iraqi refugees that he had transmitted the previous year (E/CN.4/1995/34, paras. 615-626). In this respect, the Government replied that the authorities at the national and local levels had treated the refugees in the same way as Saudi citizens and in some cases had accorded them special privileges to help them to maintain their traditions and preserve their identity. The refugees were treated in accordance with customary international law and the Geneva Conventions concerning the law of war, when they had been considered prisoners of war. After they were recognized as refugees, the Government had treated them according to international instruments concerning refugees, or Saudi national law, consisting of the Islamic Sharia. Initially, there were a few incidents involving infringements by some soldiers with little or no experience of refugee problems, but persons responsible for those infringements were invariably punished in accordance with the Islamic Sharia, as a result of which the situation at the camps had been brought under control. Refugees suspected of committing offences were investigated under the normal procedures in force in the country, in accordance with the Islamic Sharia. Contrary to allegations, no refugees had died as a result of the investigation methods applied. Corporal punishment might have been required under the terms of legal judgements handed down against law-breakers. However, the authorities had endeavoured to restrict and even avoid its application to the refugees in the light of their particular status, and the penalty had been commuted and not used against any of the refugees.
154. The Special Rapporteur transmitted one individual case, to which the Government provided a reply.
155. The Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information indicating that, despite the advent of a number of reforms in the operations of the South African Police Service (SAPS), torture and ill-treatment of persons in police custody continued to occur in the country. Most incidents of torture were said to take place during the 48 to 72 hour period during which police are authorized under the Criminal Procedure Act to detain an arrested person before presenting him or her to court. The methods of torture reported include beatings, rape and indecent assault, blindfolding, gagging, partial suffocation, tear-gassing, administration of electric shocks, prolonged suspension, painful handcuffing, sleep deprivation, food deprivation, enforced standing, withholding of medical treatment, subjection to mock executions and exposure to the torture of other persons. Torture was reportedly employed to obtain "confessions", to elicit information by "breaking down" persons physically and psychologically, and to inflict informal punishment.
156. A practice said to create conditions conducive to the occurrence of torture was that of holding detainees in police vehicles or unofficial places before taking them to police stations. Significant breaches of police procedure regarding logging in the time of arrest, the identity of the arresting officer or the time of arrival at the police station were reported to be common. In addition, detainees were also frequently denied the opportunity to contact the outside world, resulting in de facto incommunicado detention.
157. It was reported that many victims of torture or ill-treatment were reluctant to file complaints against police officers for fear of reprisals, that in some cases police had brought spurious criminal charges against persons filing complaints and that in other cases police had refused outright to register complaints. The Police Reporting Officer (PRO), established in 1992 to deal with the handling of such complaints, had been systematically refused access to dockets and information in certain areas of the country and had ceased to function entirely in other areas. Prosecutions were said to be rare, as the Attorney-General's office frequently declined to prosecute alleged perpetrators of assault or torture.
158. The Special Rapporteur also transmitted to the Government 18 individual cases of alleged torture.
159. The Special Rapporteur transmitted 17 individual cases to the Government. The latter sent a general comment regarding all of them, as well as details with respect to three.
160. The Special Rapporteur transmitted one individual case and requested follow-up information on a case transmitted the previous year. The Government provided the Special Rapporteur with further information regarding measures recently undertaken by the Government and already existent safeguards concerning his mandate.
161. The Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had continued to receive information indicating that the torture of detainees by security officials in the country was systematic. The methods of torture reported include severe beatings, enforced lying on hot metal plates until the skin is badly burnt, enforced standing for prolonged periods in the sun, physical contortion and enforced repetitive exercising.
162. The Special Rapporteur also informed the Government that he had received reports according to which torture was used by soldiers and military intelligence officers to extract information from civilians in the course of the conflict with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in the Nuba mountains. Detainees held in army garrisons were said to be kept for prolonged periods in deep covered holes, tied up without food and little water. The rape of women by soldiers and militiamen during the conduct of such operations and in government established "peace camps" was reported to be widespread.
163. The Special Rapporteur transmitted 17 individual cases to the Government. In addition, he made 14 urgent appeals on behalf of 74 persons. Four of those appeals were made jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan; three appeals jointly with the Chairman of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and one appeal with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The Government replied to 3 appeals on behalf of 5 persons and also provided the names of 58 persons released under a general amnesty.
164. As last year, the Special Rapporteur appreciates the Government's responses on a small number of his urgent appeals, but notes an absence of response on others, as well as on the more substantial cases transmitted to the Government. Again he sees no reason to depart from the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, in his interim report to the General Assembly, that "systematic torture" continues to be practised in the country (A/50/569, para. 72). The deplorable fact that other parties to the armed conflict in the south of the country also perpetrate serious and unjustifiable abuses in the areas under their control should be noted, but cannot relieve the Government of its own responsibility for torture perpetrated under its jurisdiction by its officials.
165. The Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information indicating that the torture of persons detained for political reasons in the country was systematic. Emergency legislation brought into force in 1963 allowed for the preventive detention of persons suspected of endangering public security and order. These powers were said to be exercised outside any judicial control by a number of security branches, most often by al-Amn al-Siyassi (Political Security) and al-Mukhabarat al-'Askariyya (Military Intelligence). Arrests by the security branches were generally made without warrant. Persons arrested by the security branches were said usually to be held incommunicado, without access to lawyers, medical doctors, relatives, or the courts. Information as to an arrested person's place of detention and the reasons for arrest reportedly were not usually communicated to the family. Incommunicado detention was reported to occur for lengths ranging from a few weeks to years.
166. The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), which deals with political and security cases, reportedly lacks independence from the executive branch. It is accountable only to the Minister of the Interior and does not have the power to supervise the activities of the security forces with respect to the treatment of detainees. The SSSC reportedly admits routinely confessions alleged to have been extracted under torture or ill-treatment. Most of the 500 or more defendants on trial before the SSSC since July 1992 have reportedly stated in court that they had been tortured. None of these persons, however, was known to have been medically examined and no investigations into their allegations were known to have been carried out.
167. Torture is allegedly practised to extract information or "confessions" and as a form of punishment. The methods of torture reported include: falaqa (beating on the soles of the feet); dullab (tyre), whereby the victim is hung from a suspended tyre and beaten with sticks and cables; pouring cold water over the victim's body; and al-Kursi al-Almani (the German Chair), consisting of bending a metal chair on which the victim is seated so as to cause extension of the spine, severe pressure on the neck and limbs, respiratory difficulties, loss of consciousness and possible fracturing of the vertebrae.
168. On 31 August 1995 the Government replied that torture was forbidden under the Syrian Constitution and persons violating this prohibition were subject to imprisonment for a period of from three months to three years. During the previous year, about 40 officials had been prosecuted for violating, on their own initiative, the rules concerning acceptable conduct towards detainees. They had been sentenced to various penalties. There also existed an Office for Grievances attached to the Office of the President of the Republic, established under the terms of Presidential Decree No. 29 of 22 June 1971 to receive any complaints from citizens and to follow up those complaints with the competent authorities, with a view to enforcing the rights of the complainants. Under the Decree, civil servants could be prosecuted if found to have violated the provisions of the Constitution.
169. The Special Rapporteur also transmitted two individual cases, to which the Government provided replies.
170. The Special Rapporteur received from the Government replies to four individual cases that had been transmitted to it the previous year.
171. The Special Rapporteur transmitted one urgent appeal to the Government on behalf of seven persons.
172. The Special Rapporteur retransmitted one case, to which the Government replied. He also sent three urgent appeals on behalf of five persons and the Government replied to two of them.
173. The Special Rapporteur transmitted two urgent appeals on behalf of two persons.
174. The Special Rapporteur informed the Government that he had received reports indicating that the practice of torture in police stations and gendarmeries remained widespread. According to the information, torture was applied in order to extract "confessions", to elicit names of members of illegal organizations, to intimidate detainees into becoming police informants, to inflict informal punishment for assumed support of illegal organizations and to force villagers in the south-east to become village guards.
175. Persons detained on suspicion of offences under the Anti-Terror Law may be held without access to family, friends or legal counsel for up to 30 days in the 10 provinces presently under a state of emergency and for up to 15 days in the rest of the country. Such periods of incommunicado detention create conditions particularly conducive to the practice of torture. It was reported that in the above-mentioned provinces, all of the local branches of the Human Rights Association (HRA) had been closed by the authorities and many of its members, including lawyers, had been arrested. HRA was therefore unable to receive complaints, carry out investigations, or provide legal counsel to persons arrested and subjected to ill-treatment.
176. Officials carrying out torture were said typically to take care to employ methods which left little or no medical evidence. Such techniques include hosing with cold pressurized water, suspension by the arms or by the wrists bound behind the victim's back, electric shocks, sexual assault and death threats.
177. The Special Rapporteur also transmitted 41 individual cases of alleged torture and the Government replied to 30 of these cases. In addition, he transmitted 25 urgent appeals on behalf of 80 persons and the Government replied to 13 of these appeals concerning 36 persons. One such appeal was transmitted in conjunction with the representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, the Chairman of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Chairman of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on behalf of Turkish and Iraqi civilians of Kurdish ethnic origin situated in areas affected by operations of the Turkish army in northern Iraq. The Government further provided replies to 58 previously transmitted cases and commented to the Special Rapporteur upon the observations he had made on Turkey in his previous report. Lastly, the Government sent to the Special Rapporteur statistical information concerning legal complaints that had been registered with the Government for alleged torture or ill-treatment during 1994 and the first half of 1995.
178. The Special Rapporteur, while appreciating the responses received from the Government and aware of the terrorist atrocities committed by the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), considers that the observations contained in his previous report (E/CN.4/1995/34, para. 826) remain applicable, reflecting concerns that he shares with other intergovernmental bodies that have examined the situation. As he always remains open to reviewing his understanding of the facts, he has informed the Government of Turkey of his interest in receiving an invitation to visit the country. At the time of writing, he was still awaiting a response.
179. The Special Rapporteur transmitted two individual cases and reminded the Government of a number of cases transmitted the previous year regarding which no replies had been received.
180. The Special Rapporteur transmitted two urgent appeals on behalf of two persons.
181. The Special Rapporteur transmitted an urgent appeal in conjunction with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on behalf of a group of refugees from Rwanda.
182. The Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information indicating that a police practice of placing suspects face down in restraints, usually while hogtied, had resulted in a substantial number of injuries and deaths in police custody in the country. Such practices, exercised in a number of jurisdictions, were said to restrict respiratory movement and occasionally to lead to death from "positional asphyxia". The risk of death was said to be exacerbated when the restrained person was in an agitated state or under the influence of drugs.
183. Conditions at certain maximum security facilities were said to result in the inhuman and degrading treatment of the inmates in those facilities. At the H-Unit in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, death row inmates were reportedly confined for 23 or 24 hours per day in windowless, sealed, concrete cells, with virtually no natural light or fresh air. The only time spent outside these cells was 1 hour per day on weekdays, when 4 prisoners at a time were able to exercise in a bare concrete yard with 18 foot solid walls giving no view of the outside. There was very little direct contact between prisoners and guards and no work, recreational or vocational programmes. Similarly, at the Special Housing Unit (SHU) of Pelican Bay prison in California, prisoners were reportedly confined, either alone or with one other prisoner, for 22½ hours per day in sealed, windowless cells with bare white concrete walls. The cell doors were made of heavy gauge perforated metal which, according to a federal district court, "blocks vision and light". A substantial number of prisoners in SHU were said to be suffering from mental illness, which had been caused or exacerbated by their confinement in the unit. In recent litigation, the federal district court concluded that conditions there "may press the outer bounds of what most humans can psychologically tolerate". A large number of prisoners were said to be assigned to the unit indefinitely.
184. On 21 November 1995 the Government sent a reply regarding the general concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur. The Constitution and laws of the United States and those of its constituent states prohibited torture and any form of cruel and unusual punishment; the Constitution protected every individual's right to bodily integrity and security of person, including the right to be free from excessively forceful arrest; and the law of the United States and of its constituent states provided numerous judicial, administrative and other remedies and avenues of recourse for individuals who claimed that, in the course of their arrest or detention, law enforcement officials had inflicted torture or cruel and inhuman treatment or punishment. In its reply, the Government went on to discuss and analyse particular legal standards and practices applicable to issues concerning segregation and solitary confinement, use of excessive force by prison guards, use of excessive force by police officers, as well as criminal and civil remedies available to alleged victims.
185. The Special Rapporteur also transmitted six individual cases.
186. The Special Rapporteur transmitted one urgent appeal on behalf of two persons.
187. The Special Rapporteur transmitted to the Government 22 new cases, as well as 8 transmitted in 1994 to which no reply had been received yet. He also sent three urgent appeals on behalf of eight persons and the Government sent a reply regarding one person.
188. Despite the invitation to visit the country mentioned in the previous report (E/CN.4/1995/34, para. 865), the visit did not take place as the Government failed to communicate a date for it or formally to convey any explanation for the silence. The Special Rapporteur expresses his regret at this turn of events and at the fact that he may have been induced to mislead the Commission at its fifty-first session. If the invitation is not given effect to in the coming year, he will be constrained to conclude that it has, in effect, been withdrawn.
189. The Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information indicating that torture and ill-treatment of both criminal detainees and persons detained for political reasons was routine. Allegations of torture were said generally to go uninvestigated. The incidence of torture reportedly increased dramatically during and in the aftermath of the civil armed conflict from May to July 1994. Methods of torture reported include beatings all over the body with cables, application of electric shocks, actual or threatened rape and "Kentucky Farruj" (suspension from a metal bar inserted between the hands and knees which are tied together). Military personnel arrested during or after the conflict were allegedly tortured so as to force them to divulge military information. Underground torture cells were said to exist at the Political Security detention centre in Sana'a.
190. The Special Rapporteur also transmitted three individual cases. In addition, he transmitted one urgent appeal on behalf of one person, to which a reply was received.
191. The Special Rapporteur informed the Government that he had received reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by police officers, as described in his letter of 21 July 1994 (see E/CN.4/1995/34, paras. 875-77, 892), was continuing. The Government replied that the letter of the Special Rapporteur was replete with unfounded allegations intended to create an erroneous picture of alleged mass and systematic terror in Kosovo and Metohija. Contrary to the allegations, there had been no "ethnic cleansing" within the Serbian police force. Ethnic Albanians had left the police force at the behest of nationalist separatists and secessionists and as they absented themselves from work and refused to perform their duties, legal conditions were created for the cessation of their employment. Accordingly, no discriminatory measure was taken against them; only "law" was applied.
192. The Government also stated that "coercion measures" were applied very selectively and in accordance with law and, as a rule, only when the protection of the lives of police officers and citizens and their property could not be ensured in any other way. Interventions during which "coercion measures" were applied and cases of excessive use of force, i.e. of unjustified use of force, were examined separately and, if found responsible, police officers were disciplined and/or prosecuted.
193. The Special Rapporteur also transmitted 29 individual cases, to which the Government provided replies. In addition, the Government replied to 96 cases transmitted the previous year.
194. The Special Rapporteur appreciates the replies he has received this year from the Government, both in respect of information transmitted to the Government this year and in respect of cases included in previous reports. He, nevertheless, finds it difficult to consider the generally unsubstantiated assertions, that either no measures or no coercive measures were taken in the overwhelming number of cases raised with the Government, as requiring him to modify the assessment made last year that the thrust of the allegations reflect an extensive practice of torture and similar ill-treatment, especially in Kosovo.
195. The Special Rapporteur informed the Government that he had received information according to which more than 200 secret detention centres run by the police or the armed forces existed in Kinshasa, where torture was practised routinely and conditions of detention were appalling. At the same time he transmitted 18 individual cases.
196. It is clear that torture occurs in many countries, all too frequently on an extensive basis. The Special Rapporteur continues to believe that, if States were to comply with the recommendations that have been made over the years and summarized in last year's report (E/CN.4/1995/34, para. 926), it would occur only in isolated instances and it would be promptly redressed.
197. Responses from Governments to at least some of his letters and urgent appeals tend now to be more the rule than the exception and the Special Rapporteur welcomes this. Nevertheless, he feels entitled to treat a number of the responses with scepticism, especially when they come from States that do not comply, either in law or in practice, with many of the recommendations, most of which are designed to provide structural bulwarks against perpetration of the crime of torture. This is especially the case as regards those recommendations that are aimed at putting an end to prolonged incommunicado detention and impunity.
198. More specifically, he wishes to draw the attention of Governments to difficulties he often encounters with the contents of responses. He does, of course, appreciate any response. He is also aware of the difficulties faced by many Governments, especially of developing countries, in locating and assembling the necessary information, difficulties that are compounded in the case of States with federal systems of jurisdiction. Nevertheless, some kinds of response remain insufficient for him to evaluate the allegations adequately. Thus, some responses merely contain blanket denials for all cases. Some contain simple denials for individual cases or merely allege that no complaint was made to a pertinent authority. Some make denials in respect of individual cases on the basis of an investigation, without providing details of the body that investigated or the nature of the investigation. Others may refer to an investigation being under way, but no further information is provided subsequently as to the results. Reference is sometimes made to medical examinations, but certificates indicating the institutional association of the practitioner and the results of the examination are not provided. When they are provided, they may not be legible or may contain general information about a cause of death (for example, heart attack, renal failure, etc.), without giving any indications of what may have led to these usually premature conditions, suggesting either a perfunctory examination or autopsy, or a perfunctory certificate. Or they may indicate an absence of physical sequelae, despite the fact that some physical sequelae, for example of electric shocks, may not be easily identifiable and some forms of torture or ill-treatment, such as mock executions, will have no physical sequelae.
199. Some responses indicate that charges may have been made against the officials concerned, but often without any subsequent indication of the outcome of any trial. Indeed, while some Governments may provide statistics on convictions and sentences of its personnel for abuses against persons deprived of their liberty, it is most unusual for details to be given of specific officials in respect of specific cases. Details of any compensation are similarly rare.
200. It is to ensure that the Special Rapporteur is in possession of the relevant information that, in his standard letter of transmittal of information to Governments, the Special Rapporteur requests the following information where "it is pertinent to the cases in question": (i) whether the allegations are factually accurate; (ii) any other factual circumstances which should be taken into account in assessing the implications of the allegations; (iii) the court, agency or other competent body which was, or is, responsible for investigation of the allegations and/or the prosecution of those responsible; (iv) the result of any medical examination and the identity of the person who performed it; (v) the identity of the person or persons, group or unit responsible for the torture, if known, as well as the identity of any military, police, paramilitary, civil defence or similar body, or armed group not under government control, to which those responsible belong; (vi) the decision on a complaint, the grounds for this decision and any disciplinary or criminal sanctions imposed, as well as whether or not the measure(s) imposed is (are) final; (vii) the present status of any investigation or legal action not yet completed; (viii) the nature and amount of any compensation made to the victim or his/her relatives; (ix) in the event the investigation has not been completed, the responsible parties have not been identified, prosecuted, or punished or compensation not paid, the reasons why such is the case; and (x) any other information or observations which the Government deems pertinent.
201. The Special Rapporteur, in full cognizance of the burden involved, therefore respectfully urges Governments to do their utmost to provide the information sought so as to enable him to improve his capacity accurately to assess the situations with which he is called upon to deal. In this regard, the Commission may once again wish to reiterate its frequently stated appeal to Governments to supply all information requested.