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Torture

    October 14, 2014

    By Tessa Murphy, Campaigner on the USA at Amnesty International.

    The breathlessness was overwhelming. Standing in that small, dark cell, surrounded by nothing but three concrete walls, a dank toilet, a small sink, a thin mattress, a concrete slab and a perforated metal door that barely let any air in, the oppressive claustrophobia was hard to control.

    This was not the first time I had set foot in a US prison, but it was the first time I had experienced what an isolation cell can do to you.

    Everything about that room – the lack of windows, or natural light, or fresh air, the very thought of not being allowed any human interaction – seems to be designed to dehumanise. The basic penal concept of reform and social rehabilitation is excluded inside those three walls.

    In solitary, punishment is king. The mere thought of spending more than a few minutes in that place was almost unbearable.

    And then, a prisoner told me and my colleague that we were the first outsiders he had seen in 22 years.

    September 18, 2014

    By Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner

    The disappearance of more than 270 Nigerian schoolgirls in April 2014 led to a worldwide social media campaign to #BringBackOurGirls. Tens of thousands of Amnesty International supporters signed our petition targeted at the Nigerian authorities. The world watched, and waited. Then the social media campaign faded and the issue disappeared from the headlines. Five months later the girls are still missing. And in the intervening months many more girls, boys, women, and men have been kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters.

    September 12, 2014

    By Shappal Ibrahim, a Syrian Kurdish rights activist.

    When Shappal Ibrahim, a peaceful activist with the Union of Young Kurds, was approached by a Syrian government official claiming to be a fellow supporter of the country’s “revolution”, he did not realize it was part of a ploy to detain him for his human rights activities. After agreeing to meet the official on 22 September 2011, he was driven away and detained in the city of Qamishli, his hometown. He was held in secret for nearly two years, one of Syria’s many “disappeared” before he was released as part of a presidential amnesty on 29 May 2013. It was only then he learned that on 5 September 2012 a court had sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Here, he tells his story of how he was treated in some of Syria’s many detention centres.

    September 11, 2014
    A torture wheel, discovered at a detention facility in the Philippines

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner

    Torture is endemic in the Philippines. Police officers in the Philippines tortured Jerryme Corre, a bus driver, in what could be a case of mistaken identity. Jerryme is still in prison awaiting justice. Alfreda Disbarro was arrested and tortured while in custody at a police station. Her torturers have yet to be held to account. And earlier this year, a “wheel of torture” was discovered at a detention facility in the Philippines. Detainees were forced to spin the wheel, and whatever form of torture the arrow landed on was inflicted on them.

    How has torture become so widespread in the Philippines? Because authorities have turned a blind eye and allowed it to become endemic. But two recent events provide hope that things can change.
     

    September 11, 2014

    By Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Expert on the Philippines

    Although it is talked about little, torture is the Phillipines’ dirty, open secret. It is endemic. Even though banned in Philippine law, and even though the country has signed up to all the right international treaties on ending torture, this has amounted to little more than paper promises.

    Amnesty International has received numerous and harrowing reports of the widespread use of torture and other cruel and inhuman practices by security forces.

    And the police are woefully equipped to address the issue. With around a quarter of a million police officers and soldiers combined, according to the President himself, the Philippines has one of the smallest police to population ratios in the world. This means that the national police has been dependent on poorly trained but sometimes armed police auxiliaries. On the ground, police officers rely on informants and “assets” to do their policing – and sometimes extra-legal activities.

    September 04, 2014

    By Katie Young, Amnesty International Australia

    Travel guides describe Mexico as one of the world’s great civilisations, whose landscapes are as stunning as they are diverse. But there’s a dark flipside to the family-friendly resorts and shimmering blue coastlines: Mexico is suffering from an epidemic of torture.

    Here we look some sickening facts about torture in Mexico and what you can do to help.

    1. Reports of torture are 600% higher than in 2003

    Torture in Mexico is, quite frankly, out of control. In the last ten years alone, there has been a 600 per cent rise in the number of reported cases of torture. Between 2010 and the end of 2013, the National Human Rights Commission received more than 7,000 complaints of torture.

    An Amnesty survey recently found that a whopping 64 per cent of Mexican citizens are afraid they would be tortured if they were ever to be detained by the police. In the same survey, Australia and China came out at 16 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

    2. How are people tortured in Mexico?

    Torture techniques in Mexico all have one thing in common: they’re brutal.

    July 10, 2014

    The skin across Sasha’s forehead and around his eyes is slightly yellow and there is a recent scab on his temple. He is healing well.

    Ten days before our meeting, the 19-year-old was barely recognizable: the skin on his face stretched tight, swollen and bruised. Abducted and tortured, Sasha believes he is lucky to be alive.

    Take the Pledge to Stop Torture Everywhere and Forever. 

    After the city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine came under control of separatist armed groups in April 2014, he was an obvious target.

    July 10, 2014

    On the morning of 27 May, Hanna, was sitting in her flat in eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, when there was a knock on the door. As her boyfriend Feodor lifted the latch, seven armed men wearing balaclavas and camouflaged fatigues barged through. They said they were from the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), the pro-Russian separatist group which had recently seized power in the city.

    Take the Pledge to Stop Torture Everywhere and Forever. 

    This was the start of a terrifying six day ordeal for the 30 year old pro-Ukrainian activist. She had been involved in demonstrations providing medical help and first aid to protesters injured in clashes.

    June 25, 2014

    The stench of rotting flesh coming from the tiny, cramped cell overpowered him. This was the smell of torture.

    As soon he set one foot inside the small room at a police detention centre in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Forensic Doctor Duarte Vieira was shocked. He had never seen anything as bad – and he had seen plenty.

    Amongst the 45 men, women and children held in a space originally built for six people, he saw a man with a rotting bullet wound on his foot. And then another. And a third one.

    The wound on the ankle of a fourth man had gone untreated for so long that his foot was literally decomposing; attached to the leg by a thread of skin.

    Dr. Vieira immediately knew this was a form of torture used to punish prisoners.

    “I never thought I was going to see anything like that in a living human being. People were shot on their feet before being interrogated as a way of showing them what to expect next,” he told Amnesty International.

    May 13, 2014

    by Salil Shetty, Secretary General, Amnesty International
     

    “I am here to ask for your help,” said Claudia Medina when I met her in Mexico earlier this year. “I’m going to report a crime of torture.”

    Her words touched me, because I knew what Claudia had been through. At 3am on 7 August 2012, marines broke into the home she shared with her husband and three children. They tied her hands and blindfolded her, put her in a pick-up truck and took her to a naval base in Veracruz City. They accused her of being a member of a powerful and violent criminal gang, which she flatly denied.

    June 25, 2013
    Amnesty International delegation speaks with Mauritania’s Director of Penitentiary and Penal Affairs inside the entrance to the Prison Centrale in Nouakchott.

    Alex Neve,
    Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
    Nouakchott, Mauritania
    June 24, 2013

     

    "I came to study Arabic and the Koran.  I have learned about torture and injustice."

    -  Canadian national Aaron Yoon, 24 years of age, interviewed in the Prison Civil, Nouakchott, Mauritania, June 2013.

    Over the past ten days, as part of an Amnesty International mission in Mauritania I have spent many days interviewing prisoners in three prisons in the capital, Nouakchott.  For years now, Amnesty International has documented serious and widespread torture in Mauritania and the research mission followed up on those and other human rights concerns.  

    Among many prisoners I interviewed in Nouakchott’s Prison Centrale, I heard much about torture from a young Canadian man, Aaron Yoon, who has been held here for the past 18 months.  Aaron’s tale is a complicated and unusual one; which he realizes.  He knows that many Canadians will have questions about the chain of events that brought him to this point.  But he wants all to realize that he has been tortured and has been convicted on the basis of a blatantly unfair trial that gave him no opportunity to defend himself.  As he said to me: "I hope people will not rush to judge me unless they give me a fair chance to respond to what is being said about me.  It is terrible to be tortured.  It makes you say what they want you to say."

     

    << UPDATE: A Mauritanian appeal court ruled on Sunday 14 July that Aaron Yoon, a Canadian from London, Ontario should now be released from prison. Learn more

    The concerns about torture in Mauritania are widespread and longstanding, including in the cases of a growing number of prisoners held on charges related to terrorism or national security, but also with respect to minors, women and men detained on ordinary criminal charges.  In fact, virtually no one is safe from torture when in the hands of the Mauritanian police.

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