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UN rights expert calls for international debate on health care abuse amounting to torture

UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez [official profile] called Tuesday for a debate on abuses and mistreatment in health care settings [press release] that potentially equate to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The call for debate was based upon a report [text, PDF] released in February that detailed the abuses and mistreatment and the policies promoting those practices as well as existing protection gaps. The report illuminated often undetected practices and emphasizes how certain treatments violate prohibitions on torture and ill-treatment. Mendez spoke of unique challenges to correcting such practices due to a "perception that, while never justified, certain practices in health-care may be defended by the authorities on grounds of administrative efficiency, behaviour modification or medical necessity." Mendez recognized forms of abuses including: compulsory detention for drug users, street children, homeless individuals, and others in rehabilitation centers run by military or police; violation of reproductive rights such as involuntary sterilization, female genital mutilation, and denial of abortion or post-abortion care; denial of pain treatment; solitary confinement and prolonged restraint of persons with psychosocial disabilities; and denial of treatment to HIV/AIDS patients and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.

Mendez has traveled around the world to report on the use of torture. In September Mendez said that the human rights situation in Morocco was improving but that more effort was needed to eradicate torture [JURIST report]. Earlier that month he called on the Egyptian government and courts to stop permitting evidence acquired through torture [JURIST report] to be admitted in any legal proceedings including military trials. In May Mendez made a nine-day visit to the Republic of Tajikistan [BBC profile], where he praised that country's effort to modify its criminal justice system designed to aid in eradicating torture [JURIST report], but he also found that mistreatment of suspects remains the norm.

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