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JORDAN: Torture of prisoners rife, say rights groups

AMMAN, 14 May 2006 (IRIN) - The torture of detainees is a routine phenomenon in the kingdom, say human rights activists, who called on the authorities to curtail such practices.

“Detainees are denied access to lawyers and are referred to State Security courts after being forced to confess,” said Arab Organisation for Human Rights President Hani Dahleh. “This is a flagrant violation of Jordan's commitment to the UN Agreement on Torture.”

Dahleh went on to say that complaints of torture and abuse were “on the rise”, adding that Islamist activists were usually the ones to suffer most from torture and abuse while in detention.

One recent case involves Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, the Iraqi woman accused of taking part in the Amman bombings in November of last year that killed 60 people. According to al-Rishawi’s lawyer, Hussein al-Masri, security forces tortured his client during interrogations.

Al-Rishawi also claims that her televised confession last year was made under duress. In a much-publicised declaration of guilt, the 35-year-old Iraqi admitted to marrying her Jordanian husband in order to enter the kingdom with the aim of launching a suicide attack. She went on to explain that her explosive belt failed to detonate, while that of her husband went off at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman.

Al-Masri said he planned to contest the validity of the interrogation procedures, which he described as being “marred with human rights abuses”. “They tortured me continuously during interrogation,” al-Rishawi – who is been kept in solitary confinement since her capture in November – told al-Masri from prison.

Al-Rishawi is accused of conspiracy to carry out terrorist acts and illegal possession of weapons and explosives. If found guilty, she could be sentenced to death. The elusive al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, is also being tried in connection with the attacks, in absentia.

Al-Rishawi is only one of many prisoners to say they have been subject to torture at the hands of security forces, particularly those of the General Intelligence Department (GID). Suspects can often spend weeks or months at GID headquarters without the knowledge of their families. Interrogation techniques reportedly range from sleep deprivation and long periods of solitary confinement to physical beatings. Some detainees have reported having relatives brought in and beaten in front of them, according to Human Rights groups.

Human rights organisations have repeatedly accused the authorities of torturing prisoners. Earlier this month, Amnesty International called on Amman to launch an “impartial and independent” investigation into continuing reports of torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners and suspects by the GID. “Amnesty International continues to receive reports of detainees being forced to sign ‘confessions’, which are then used against them in trials before the State Security Court…whose proceedings breach international fair trial standards,” the organisation said recently in a statement.

Earlier this year, authorities hanged two men, a Jordanian and a Libyan, after they were found guilty of assassinating an American diplomat in Amman in 2002. Before their executions, both men said their confessions had been taken by force.

Jordanian officials continue to deny abusing prisoners.

Theme (s): Human Rights,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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