Torture: Amnesty International says that the practice is more widespread than ever. It targets five regimes in its latest report

A glimpse of Hell in the cells of horror across the world with n
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For those who have faith in human progress, it makes grim reading to go through the new Amnesty International study, published yesterday, on the worldwide practice of torture. It concludes that since it issued its first such reports in 1973 and 1984 "most of the countries implicated in those books are still actively torturing their citizens; and a few more countries have been added to the list".

The forms of torture in use across the world are cruel almost beyond belief. A Burmese punishment known as "the helicopter" involves suspending the victim by the wrists or ankles from a rotating ceiling fan and inflicting blows as the victim spins round.

The "pig position" in Bolivia requires the handcuffed prisoner to be bent over backwards until his or her head is on the ground and pushed against a wall as the beatings rain down.

Such is only a random sample of methods and instruments employed by government security agencies and police forces from Serbia to Indonesia, from Iraq to Sri Lanka, from Haiti to Papua New Guinea. In all, Amnesty estimates torture has reached "epidemic proportions" in more than 40 countries, and says outbreaks have been reported in 60 others.

In launching its latest campaign for the abolition of torture, Amnesty is concentrating on five countries: China, Israel, Kenya, Mexico and Turkey, and on this page we summarise conditions in each state.

It has chosen them not necessarily because they are the most flagrant abusers of human rights but because each is in a different continent or region, reinforcing the perception that torture is a worldwide evil.

It is worldwide in a technological and commercial sense, too. Amnesty presents evidence that many Western companies, including some in Britain, have sought markets abroad for their shackles, thumbcuffs, electric shock batons, stun guns and other sophisticated products for abusing the human person.

Worldwide torture is not about to stop tomorrow. But better enforcement of the regulations governing exports of equipment open to misuse would be a good start.

5 A Glimpse of Hell is available at pounds 12.99 from Amnesty International UK, 99-119 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4RE