Dec 8, 2017, 12:13 PM
News Code: 82756131
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UN calls for probe into torture in US jails: Reuters

Tehran, Dec 8, IRNA - The UN special rapporteur on torture urged US authorities to investigate and weigh criminal charges against jail officials in Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas for the “clearly gratuitous infliction of severe pain and suffering” from the use of Tasers on inmates, it was reported on Friday.

After reviewing footage of jail incidents, Nils Melzer said, 'the grave abuse” from Taser use in some US jails violated the United Nations’ prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and, in some cases, amounted to torture.

He cited video footage Reuters published of 22 incidents in four jails: in Franklin County, Ohio; Cheatham County, Tennessee; Franklin County, Arkansas; and McCurtain County, Oklahoma.

“In my view, all of the incidents shown in this video require independent investigation and most of them are likely to merit prosecution,” Melzer said in an interview.

“Clearly gratuitous infliction of severe pain and suffering … constitutes a grave violation of human dignity and of the universal code of conduct for law enforcement officials.”

His criticisms were echoed by the head of the United Nations watchdog panel that monitors US compliance with an anti-torture treaty, who said the cases documented by Reuters “need to be investigated thoroughly.”

In an article and accompanying video report published, Reuters identified 104 cases of prisoners who died after being shocked with Tasers. Some of the in-custody deaths were deemed “multi-factorial,” with no single cause, and some were attributed to pre-existing health problems. But the Taser was listed as a cause or contributing factor in more than a quarter of the 84 inmate fatalities in which the news agency obtained cause-of-death findings.

Of the 104 inmates who died, just two were armed when shocked and nearly 80 percent hadn’t been convicted of a crime. A third were in handcuffs or other restraints when stunned. In more than two-thirds of the 70 cases in which Reuters was able to gather full details, the inmate already was immobilized when shocked – pinned to the ground or held by officers.

“When you use a tool like this on an incapacitated person, to me it certainly amounts to cruel and degrading treatment,” Melzer said.

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