[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged the Zambian government to investigate the inhumane treatment of prisoners [press release] in the nation’s jails and to hold those implicated accountable. HRW claims that Zambian police officials “routinely engage” in abusing and torturing prisoners in order to extract confessions. HRW urged the Zambian government to train officials on non-abusive interrogation techniques and to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for inhumane treatment of prisoners. In a letter to the Zambian Minister of Foreign Affairs, HRW stated:
Prisoners we interviewed repeatedly reported that police had beaten them in custody in order to try to coerce a confession, and often inflicted serious injuries. Inmates showed researchers their misshapen fingers—in some cases smashed by hammers or iron bats—and scars on their feet and hands. Many have long-term injuries that require ongoing medical attention, ostensibly due to their treatment in custody. … Under international human rights law, people in detention retain their human rights and fundamental freedoms. As you will be aware, the most fundamental protection for detainees is the absolute prohibition on torture.
Zambian police officials claim that the use of force against prisoners is not prison policy, but is only used by a “few rotten eggs.” HRW disputes this claim, stating that, out of the 246 prisoners interviewed by the rights group, a large proportion were victims of abuse in prison, showing a widespread and systematic execution of inhuman treatment against detainees.
Earlier this year, HRW released a similar statement concerning the alleged abuse of prisoners [JURIST report] in a secret Iraqi prison. HRW stated that detainees held at the Muthanna facility, run by Iraqi authorities, were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks and sodomized during torture sessions that detainees faced every three to four days. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile] denied the reports of a secret prison, claiming the facility was publicly known and that the reports of abuse are exaggerated. In June HRW lauded the Turkish government for its landmark conviction of several prison and police officials [JURIST report] for the torture and death of anti-government activist Engin Ceber while in police custody. The conviction marks the first time a Turkish court has convicted a senior prison official for the conduct of guards under his command.