FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U.S. RECORD OF POLICE TORTURE RAISES CONCERNS FOR
UN COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
Committee Members Call for Action on TASERs, Burge Torture Cases
Friday, May 19, 2006 (GENEVA) - The UN Committee Against Torture issued its Concluding Observations and Recommendations regarding the U.S. government's compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (CAT) today. The report follows two days of hearings before the Committee in Geneva, Switzerland on May 5 and 8, 2006.
The Committee, comprised of 10 internationally recognized experts, called for strict regulation of TASER use by law enforcement agents in the U.S., and expressed concern regarding police brutality and use of excessive force, particularly against people of color, immigrants, and LGBT people, as well as sexual assaults in police custody, immigration detention, and prisons. The Committee specifically referenced violence committed by law enforcement agents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and asked the US to report back on investigations into these abuses within a year.
The Committee also called on the US to "promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate all allegations of acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law enforcement personnel and bring perpetrators to justice," specifically noting the torture, impunity, and lack of prosecutions which have taken place in the now infamous Burge torture cases, in which 135 African Americans were found to have been tortured over a twenty year period by former Commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command at the Chicago Police Department. Torture techniques used by the police officers included electrically shocking genitals with cattle prods and electric shock boxes, suffocations with plastic bags, and beatings about the body with telephone books and rubber hoses.
A Chicago judge is expected to rule today on whether the results of an investigation by a court-appointed special prosecutor into the Burge cases will be released over the objections of the officers involved.
"Despite mountains of evidence that Burge and his officers "systematically" and "methodically" tortured African Americans at police headquarters, and a four year investigation costing $7.3 million, we're still waiting on indictments," said Joey Mogul of the People's Law Office in Chicago, who represents several victims of torture at the hands of Burge and his detectives. "We had no choice but to take our case to the UN so that these officers can be held fully accountable for their criminal acts of torture."
The UN Committee also expressed concern regarding evidence of excessive, un-regulated use of TASERs by police across the US, which has resulted in over 150 deaths in recent years. It called on the US to restrict their use to instances in which lethal force would be warranted and ban their use on people who are already in police custody. During the hearings leading up to this report, Committee members questioned the US on misuse of TASERs on children, pregnant women, elderly people, people with disabilities, and people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"It's clear from their report that the UN Committee sees torture by law enforcement personnel in the US as on the same level as the torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo." Andrea Ritchie, a civil rights lawyer said. "It's not just Guantanamo that needs to be shut down, it's torture wherever it takes place."
The U.S. ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1994. The report issued today concludes the Committee's second periodic review of US compliance with the Convention.
For more information, please contact: Joey Mogul (773) 235-0070/773-294-7606 or firstname.lastname@example.org;
Andrea Ritchie (646) 831-1243 or email@example.com