Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

UN Torture Investigator Slams Western Complacency

By Manfred Ertel and Marion Kraske

Spiegel: Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has traveled the world investigating abuse and cruelty. As he prepares to deliver his final report, he voices his dismay at the complacency with which torture is regarded -- even in the West.
That makes it all the more astonishing that China, of all countries, allowed the UN rapporteur into the country. His predecessors had tried in vain for 10 years to be granted permission for such a visit.

What he saw in the prisons and prison camps of Beijing in 2005 still makes him frown angrily: "What is inhuman about the system is the psychological pressure," he says. He talks about the state's continuing "strong desire to re-educate people." Prisoners are not simply locked away; rather, "confessions" are forced out of them. In order to achieve this, civil rights activists, members of the Falun Gong movement, ordinary criminals and others are forced to sit still in their cells for hours at a time and memorize the penal code. In a prison in the north of the country, Nowak even met an African prisoner who was forced to endure this punishment -- even though he did not speak any Chinese.

But he has also concluded that China's ruling elite has long ceased being a "monolithic bloc." Nowak has identified reformist forces close to the Foreign Ministry, while the hardliners are attempting to preserve the communists' claim to power, especially within the intelligence service and security apparatus, according to Nowak.

Nowak believes these hardliners are especially to blame for a new "wave of repression," which is targeting more civil rights activists and dissidents in the run up to the Olympic Games being held in China next year.

But Nowak remains optimistic. "I am still hopeful that things will improve," he says, stroking his moustache. "Major events such as the Games can always shake things up."


No comments: