Denmark a leader on combating torture, but UN expert has some concerns

9 May 2008
Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

While lauding Denmark's efforts to combat torture, an independent United Nations human rights expert who just visited the country said the country still has room for progress.

In a statement issued today to mark the completion of his visit to both Denmark and Greenland, Manfred Nowak said that Denmark “is the central player in mobilizing the international community by putting forth resolutions on combating torture every year,” and added that, “without question, the international community has much to benefit from Denmark's example.”

Mr. Nowak, who is the UN's Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said that he had “received no allegations of torture and very few complaints of ill-treatment from detainees.”

He said there was generally a “high standard of conditions of detention inside Danish prisons,” and cited the fact that many jails in Denmark are open institutions and have a mix of male and female prisoners, with facilities for children of imprisoned parents.

At the same time, Mr. Nowak expressed some reservations about Denmark's record. He called for a specific crime of torture to be included in Denmark's criminal law, and said that the use of solitary confinement should be reduced, “based on unequivocal evidence of its negative mental health effects upon detainees.”

Mr. Nowak also called on Denmark to refrain from using “diplomatic assurances” to allow suspected terrorists to return to countries known for their practice of torture.

Referring to Greenland, the Special Rapporteur said he “regretted” that action against domestic violence has so far not received adequate attention despite the severity of the problem.” Mr. Nowak recommended that Greenland's Government develop and implement a plan of action on domestic violence.

He also welcomed a Danish Government investigation into alleged rendition flights of suspects by the United States Central Intelligence Agency, using flights through Denmark and Greenland.


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