China to allow torture expert to visit
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China to allow torture expert to visit
HUMAN RIGHTS: After years of negotiations, Beijing has finally consented to give a UN investigator access to its detention centers and interviews with prisoners

Associated Press | August 25, 2005

China has agreed to allow a fact-finding mission by a top UN official mandated with investigating allegations of torture, the UN human rights agency said.

Manfred Nowak, the UN Human Rights Commission's special investigator on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, will visit China from Nov. 21 to Dec. 2 to meet with government officials and get a firsthand look at Chinese detention centers.

"There are all kinds of allegations ranging from Falun Gong people to dissidents about the treatment in re-education through labor camps," Nowak said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "But these are only allegations, and I want to verify or falsify them as much as possible."

Nowak said he was pleased China had for the first time "finally accepted a visit, after years of negotiations," and said Beijing had not stipulated any conditions for his trip.

"I am very happy that the government actually fully accepted my terms of reference, which means that I'm able when I'm there to visit any place of detention and to visit any detainee in private," Nowak said.

Nowak said he also would examine "in general, the way people are treated in prisons after they are convicted and in particular, those sentenced to death."

Nowak will include his findings in a report to be submitted at next year's meeting of the commission, the UN's top rights watchdog. Nowak, a Vienna law professor, is one of several experts appointed by the 53-nation body.

While China outlawed torture in 1996, activists and lawyers say it is widely practiced in the country. But China's parliament has recently enacted new rules limiting police interrogations to 12 hours in a new effort to limit abuses after a series of highly publicized complaints.

The change came amid an unusual discussion by China's state media of the widespread use of torture and coercion by police, who are under pressure to crack cases with little professional training, after a false murder conviction was overturned in April. She Xianglin (佘祥林), who was released after 11 years in prison, said he was tortured into confessing.

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911:  The Road to Tyranny