Amnesty International says Switzerland must do more to stamp out torture around the world. At a meeting in the Swiss capital, Berne, the organisation's local branch urged Switzerland not to do business with countries where the practice is widespread
Amnesty International launched its third campaign against torture on Wednesday. It said that despite growing public awareness of the problem, the use of torture has not decreased. It added that torture is commonplace in over 150 countries, often with the approval of the authorities.
Amnesty believes Switzerland is ideally placed to take a stand against what it calls this "modern-day plague". It acknowledged that the Swiss government was active in the fight against torture, but said it could do more.
The secretary-general of Amnesty's local section, Frauke Lisa Seidensticker, called on Switzerland to "implement a coherent foreign policy, excluding deals with countries that practice torture. This includes offering business guarantees to companies dealing with Turkey, China and Israel."
Her words were echoed by socialist member of parliament, Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, who told the meeting that: "Human rights are more important than business. Torture cannot be pushed into the background just because people want to do business. You cannot separate the two."
Amnesty said the use of torture has evolved in the past few years, and gone beyond its traditional use as a punishment or means of extracting information from people. It said torture was now increasingly used in a systemic way to intimidate and undermine certain groups of people.
Amnesty added that those worst affected were minorities, women, children, the poor, refugees and marginal elements of society, as well as political opponents, the usual targets of torture.
Amnesty is also asking the Swiss authorities to prosecute torture more forcefully, particularly when it comes to war criminals. It has also called for more help to be given to torture victims.
Amnesty's worldwide campaign against torture will last 14 months. The NGO hopes public opinion will force governments to stop the use of these methods.
by Scott Capper