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July 23, 2014
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49% of Argentines fear torture if detained

Locals also strongly against ‘justified’ torture, agree ‘clear rules’ are needed

Nearly half of all Argentines say they fear suffering torture if they were detained by authorities — a figure that represents slightly more than the global average — an Amnesty International survey has revealed.

The results from a series of questions on the issue show Argentina as one of the societies most disapproving of torture among the 21 countries surveyed.

Forty-nine percent of Argentines surveyed for the worldwide Attitudes to Torture Survey 2014 said they either “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the proposition, “If I were taken into custody by the authorities in my country, I am confident that I would be safe from torture.”

Only 34 percent said they agreed.

Argentines came in slightly higher than the average from the 21 countries included in the survey, with 44 percent of the 21,221 people queried revealing they would fear torture if in custody.

Neighbouring Brazil, topped the list with 80 percent, compared to the lower results from Australia and the UK, where 16 and 15 percent of people, respectively, said they “agree” with the proposition.

In a country often praised for its work on human rights issues, 72 percent of the Argentines asked in the telephone or face-to-face interviews with Amnesty International said they agreed to the presposition that “clear rules against torture are needed because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights.”

The results, while strong, put Argentina in second-to-last place in front of only Peru, where 71 percent of people said they agreed. What’s more, 18 percent of people in Argentina said they somewhat or strongly disagreed that clear rules against torture are needed to avoid immoral acts and weaken rights. That result put the country ahead of just the USA, Peru and Nigeria, and equal with only Mexico.

No to ‘justified’ torture

Argentina is the Latin American country that has opened up the most cases against human rights abuses from 1976 to 1983, while some legal action has been taken in neighbouring Chile and Uruguay, which also suffered dictatorships in the same era. Of the Latin American countries questioned — Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Argentina — Chileans were most strongly in favour of the idea of introducing clear rules, with 84 percent of people saying they “agreed.”

The third preposition queried by Amnesty International in its survey was if “torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public.”

Only 15 percent of Argentines said they agreed, placing the country behind Greece only — where 12 percent of people agreed — in disapproving the idea of “justified” torture.

Peru again topped the list in Latin America, this time in favour of “justified” torture, with 40 percent saying they agreed, while China and India — the world’s most populous countries — topped the list, with 74 percent of people in both suggesting that torture can be justified to protect to the public.

A senstitive issue

“The Americas have some of the world’s most robust anti-torture laws and mechanisms at the national and regional level,” Amnesty International said its complimentary “Torture in 2014” report.

The subtitle of the report is titled “30 years of Broken Promises” marking the signing of the UN Convention Against Torture, incidentally coinciding with the end of Argentina’s last civil-military dictatorship, which is often remembered for the military’s brutal use of torture in clandestine detention centres.

Amid many long-held frustrations among local human rights organizations over the slow action of the courts in dealing with the crimes of the dictatorship, the report by Amnesty International also noted that “torture and other ill-treatment remain widespread” in the Americas “and those responsible rarely face justice.”

Prison problem

While in this year’s report Argentina was not specifically mentioned, in a separate 2008 study, Amnesty International marked the country as one of 81 still practicing torture or mistreating in its prison system.

Meanwhile, in a 2012 study conducted by Buenos Aires Provincial Memory Commission (CPM) revealed that 123 deaths had occurred in BA province prisons, 40 of which they reported as “traumatic.”

The report titled “The Cruelty System” showed that 55 percent of detained minors had suffered beatings in detention, while 57 percent reported the same during the time spent at police stations following arrest.

Herald staff

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