'Wheel of torture' draws Amnesty International's ire

Posted at 03/12/14 9:55 PM

MANILA - Amnesty International criticized the Philippine government Wednesday for allegedly failing to crack down on torture committed by the security forces against detained persons.

"Impunity for torture and other ill-treatment remains a critical human rights problem in the Philippines," London-based Amnesty said in a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

"Most instances of torture and other ill-treatment in the Philippines are unreported," it added, citing criminal suspects in official custody as the most frequent victims of such behavior.

Made available to the press by Amnesty late Tuesday, the letter highlighted the case of 10 police officers accused of torturing prisoners for "fun" at a secret detention facility near Manila.

The secret prison, where the officers were accused of spinning a "wheel of torture" to decide what form of punishment they would inflict on detainees, was shut down in January after a surprise inspection by the government's Commission on Human Rights.

The officers are under investigation and the police denied torture was a government policy, but Amnesty said this was not enough and suggested those involved should also be facing criminal charges.

The Philippine government's human rights commission said Wednesday that Amnesty's letter came at a time when the country is campaigning for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

"We agree with the assessment of Amnesty International that the Philippine government has yet to make concrete steps to eradicate the practice of torture," Mark Cebreros, spokesman of the commission, told AFP.

The letter was not likely to prevent the Philippines from being elected to the council, but was probably intended to ensure Manila raised its human rights standards, he added.

Amnesty was just the latest group to assail Philippine President Benigno Aquino for his government's alleged failure to curb human rights abuses.

Last month the US State Department said in its annual report that the Philippines had failed to crack down on rights abuses, particularly extra-judicial killings of dissidents by the security forces.

Meanwhile in its 2014 report, New York-based monitor Human Rights Watch said "there are growing doubts about (the Aquino) administration's willingness to deliver on many of its human rights commitments".

It cited the continuing incidents of extra-judicial killings and the rash of deadly attacks on journalists.