Probe demanded into alleged Chicago police torture Reuters | August 29, 2005
CHICAGO - Civil rights lawyers on Monday asked a rights panel to investigate allegations that Chicago police detectives used electric shock and other forms of torture to extract confessions from black suspects.
The lawyers said the request for a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was meant to shame authorities who failed to prosecute up to 20 detectives said to have carried out abuse from the 1970s to the early 1990s.
Several civil cases have wound through the courts and juries found that torture was routine under the command of now-retired Commander John Burge.
When called to testify, Burge has repeatedly cited his right not to incriminate himself. The city of Chicago has provided for Burge's defense despite firing him.
The allegations say police detectives staged mock executions, shocked the ears and genitalia of suspects with a makeshift torture device, suffocated them with plastic and slammed them with telephone books so as not to leave bruises, the lawyers said. At least 135 black male suspects were tortured, they said.
The Washington-based Inter-American Commission, which was set up by the Organization of American States as a fact-finding body, will decide within a few weeks whether to investigate, said attorney Locke Bowman of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago.
Ultimately panel could issue a declaration to the U.S. government asking it to prosecute, but its rulings are not binding on U.S. citizens or institutions, a commission spokesman said.
In the past, the panel has examined the issue of the death penalty for juveniles and allegations of human rights violations at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo, Cuba.
"There never has been a reckoning for this torture," Bowman said at a news conference. "We're asking for a recommendation to the U.S. government to take appropriate steps to punish the perpetrators."
A special prosecutor was appointed three years ago to look into the alleged torture but no one has been charged, Bowman said.