Using torture techniques to extract confessions from suspects is still “entrenched” in pre-trial detention in China, a report has warned.
Additionally, when lawyers have attempted to protest, defend or raise the issue of the torture of their clients, they have endured torture themselves.
The report No End in Sight by Amnesty International revealed the widespread use of torture in the country.
The human rights organisation interviewed 37 lawyers and analysed a sample of 590 court decisions to reach their conclusion.
The report details various methods of pre-trial torture used, including beatings by police or other detainees on officer’s orders.
According to Amnesty, ‘confessions’ form the basis of most convictions in China so there is “an almost irresistible incentive for law enforcement agencies to obtain them by any means necessary”.
Legal experts are quoted saying how getting confessions through these methods are “entrenched” in pre-trial detention, most often in cases involving dissidents, ethnic minorities or those involved with religious activities.
Torture techniques used, dubbed 'medieval' by The Guardian, are said to include iron restraint chairs, sleep deprivation, denial of food and water as well as ‘tiger benches’ — where an individual’s legs are bound to a bench and bricks are gradually added under their feet, forcing their legs backwards.
Allegedly, when lawyers have tried to raise these issues it has resulted in them being threatened, harassed, detained or even tortured themselves.
One former lawyer, Tang Jitian from Beijing told Amnesty when he attempted to investigate alleged torture at a detention facility in north-east China he was tortured.
He said: “I was strapped to an iron chair, slapped in the face, kicked on my left and hit so hard over the head with a plastic bottle filled with water that I passed out.”
These revelations have come despite supposedly promising steps from China in cleaning up their torture record.
In 1988, China ratified the UN convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment. However Amnesty claims they have “failed to bring domestic legislation in line with the obligations of the treaty.”
Additionally, measures were introduced in 2010 to reform the country’s criminal justice system.
According to Associated Press, despite the various reports and accounts, Chinese authorities maintain the practice of torture is declining.
Following a previous report by Human Rights Watch in May, which found similar findings, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told the media Chinese law prohibits torture during interrogations and that anyone who had done so would be punished.
Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty said: “In a system where even lawyers can end up being tortured by the police, what hope can ordinary defendants have?”
“The government seem more concerned about the potential embarrassment wrongful convictions can cause than about curbing torture in detention.”
He added: “If the government is serious about improving human rights it must start by holding law enforcement agencies to account when they commit abuses.”
The report was released to coincide with a UN Committee Against Torture meeting which will review and scrutinise China’s practice of torture in Geneva next week.
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