Amnesty Urges Crackdown on Child Torture

Nine-year-old Firoz, accused of stealing a mobile phone, was not giving police in Bangladesh the answers they wanted — so he said they crushed his thumb with pliers until he lost consciousness.

He was later bound with rope and suspended from a bar.

Then there’s 12-year-old Komba, who was paralyzed by fear when forced to join Sierra Leone’s rebels.

“My legs were cut with blades and cocaine was rubbed in the wounds,” he recalled. “Afterward I felt like a big person. I saw the other people like chickens and rats. I wanted to kill them.”

Suffering in Silence

Citing case studies from around the world, Amnesty International called on all governments today to publicly campaign against child torture and take steps to ensure that more offenders are punished.

Armed opposition groups also must be encouraged not to further their causes by abusing children, the London-based human rights group said.

“This abuse continues to be the world’s secret shame, a daily reality ignored by governments everywhere,” said an Amnesty report, part of its Campaign Against Torture. “Most children suffer in silence, their stories never told, their tormentors never called to account.

“By allowing the violence against children to continue,” it said, “we put at risk our future.”

A Variety of Pain Abuse often happens when children are taken into police custody, during which beatings are considered a useful interrogation tool, the report said. It said children are mostly hit by guns, whips and sticks, burned with cigarettes or given electric shocks.

At times, the abuse is of a more psychological nature, it said — sleep deprivation, for example.

Firoz, now 10, took months to recover from his injuries and is still receiving psychiatric treatment. He also was denied access to his parents while in detention.

Amnesty singled out police action in the Middle East, contending that Palestinian children are frequently arrested late at night or in the early hours of the morning, handcuffed, intimidated and subjected to “extreme psychological pressure.”

Minors held in custody in many countries were labeled at risk of rape or sexual abuse by officials or inmates.

The report cited the case in Turkey of a 16-year-old Kurdish girl, identified only as N.C.S. She was forced to stand continuously for two days, prevented from using the toilet, given only sour milk to drink, beaten and sexually abused, the report said. Her offense: belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

United States Also Accused

Street children also are victims of torture or easy prey for pedophile or pornography rings, the report said, particularly in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nepal and Uganda.

Amnesty said better control is needed over juvenile detention centers.

It cited a U.S. case in which children at a reform school in Plankinton, S.D., were allegedly made to lie on their backs on a concrete bed for hours at a time. Girls were said to be stripped naked by male staff members. A settlement guaranteeing juveniles’ rights at the State Training School, including a ban on shackles on beds, is currently under scrutiny.

“The fact that children should suffer at all should come as a terrible shock. Their dependency and vulnerability should render them immune from the atrocities adults inflict on one another,” the report said. “Their very innocence should put them beyond reach. Yet violence against children is endemic.”