A Global Crisis of Detention

  •  united nations
  • Inter Press Service

Although he was only able to visit 18 out of the 192 member countries, Nowak was confident that his sample accurately reflected the conditions in detention facilities and prisons all over the world. Among his many findings, Nowak unearthed substantive evidence for torture or other inhuman treatment of detainees in 17 of the 18 countries he gained access to.

Some of the conditions he observed, particularly in overnight holding cells, were so appalling that he is now 'calling for a United Nations convention on the Rights of Detainees.' 'There are currently soft law standards,' Nowak said, 'but no rela binding treaty law that spells out, for instance, that detainees should have at least one a hour a day to go outside and leave their cell and see the sun.'

Nowak and his team identified a loose index within which abuses of prisoners can be examined. Among the criteria for determining conditions of torture were: the widespread and systematic nature of torture; the existence of impunity despite legal frameworks; missing provisions on torture in domestic criminal law; systematic beating of detainees; and violence and aggression in detention facilities.

Significantly, Nowak was denied unfettered access to Guantanamo, despite the Obama administration's supposed dedication to shutting down the center altogether. Nowak expressed frustration at being thwarted in his attempts to carry out full investigations of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, 'including being denied access even to the one detainee who is kept in New York City.'

© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service