Majorities in four countries say torturing terrorists is okay

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UNITED NATIONS: A majority of people in 14 countries favor a total ban on torture, but in four others they find the practice acceptable when dealing with terrorists, according to a survey released here Tuesday.

The poll, conducted in 19 countries, found that a majority of respondents in Spain, Britain, France, Mexico, China, the Palestinian territories, Poland, Indonesia and Ukraine, backed a total prohibition on torture.

Five countries – Azerbaijan, Egypt, United States, Russia and Iran – had modest majorities or pluralities supporting a ban on torture under any circumstances.

However, majorities in India (59 percent), Nigeria (54 percent), Turkey (51 percent) and a plurality in Thailand (44 percent) found torture acceptable when dealing with terrorists. South Korea was equally divided.

The poll was released in advance of International Victims of Torture Day on June 26 by, a worldwide research project at the University of Maryland in the United States.

The idea that torture by governments is basically wrong is widely shared in all corners of the world, said Steven Kull, head of

Even the scenarios one hears of terrorists holding information that could save innocent lives is rejected as a justification for torture in most countries, he added.

Yvonne Terlingen, Amnesty International’s UN representative, found it really shocking that only half of all those interviewed in the poll … agree that all torture should be prohibited.

There is a total ban on torture under international law.

Last week, the Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a consensus resolution reaffirming the absolute prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Currently, 145 of the UN s 192 member states have signed the Convention on Torture.

The poll also found that on average, nine percent of all respondents in the 19 countries said there should be no rule against torture.

China and Turkey had the largest percentages (18 percent in both) of people who believe governments should be allowed to torture while France and Britain (four percent in both) had the lowest.

The poll also found an increase in the number of people favoring the use of torture for terrorists in Egypt, the United States and South Korea.

Terlingen meanwhile stressed that the US role in undermining the universal prohibition against torture cannot be underestimated.

She pointed to Washington s defense of the use of water-boarding – a simulated drowning technique denounced by rights groups as torture – or extraordinary renditions, the secret transfer of terror suspects for interrogation to a third country or to US-run detention centers.

Amnesty International on Tuesday released another report titled State of Denial: Europe s role in rendition and secret detentions, highlighting growing European involvement in the practices.

The report detailed six cases, involving 13 individuals and six European states (Bosnia-Hercegovina, Germany, Italy, Macedonia, Sweden and Britain) where permission was given to CIA flights headed for renditions to use European airports and airspace or to host secret detention centers.

The growing evidence of Europe s partnership in the US rendition program reinforces the urgent need for measures to prevent further complicity, Terlingen said.

Amnesty released a six-point plan for ending European involvement in such practices, including launching independent probes into all cases implicating European agents and bringing the perpetrators to justice. -AFP

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