Thousands of “political prisoners” are held worldwide in inhumane conditions and many are routinely subjected ‘to torture that includes electric shock and beatings, human rights group say. “Governments spend a lot. of time and money hiding political prisoners,” said David Laulicht of Amnesty International, the human rights group. He said his organization is working to release at least 5,000 people who are held solely because of their beliefs, nationality or race.

Laulicht said he could not give an estimate of the number of people imprisoned for political reasons or who have been tortured.

“A third of world governments practice torture,” he said. “How many people is this going to add up to? What we’re able to find out is only the tip of the iceberg.”

He said his organization has received increasing numbers of reports of human rights abuses, although that did not mean torture or human rights violations were on the rise, but that more people were willing to tell their experiences.


Cases in which political prisoners have been tortured have been reported in India, Turkey, South Africa, the Philippines, Guatamala, Poland, Chile and Paraguay.

A Guatemalan dissident’s body was found covered with what was described as blowtorch burns, while the Turkish government has subjected political prisoners to “crucifixions” in which they are hung from a cross and given electric shocks, Amnesty International said in London Thursday.

The Indian government has been accused of using electric shock on some of its estimated 600 inmates in the violence torn Punjab state, while other prisoners were tortured to death in police stations while awaiting trial.

The Indian government this month arrested more than 600 people in Punjab, mostly militant Sikh youths, to prevent disruption of Sept. 25 elections. Dozens of other dissidents are imprisoned throughout the country, human rights groups say.

Also reported were torture and mistreatment of prisoners awaiting trial in police stations as communists, including beatings, denial of food, and electric shock. Many died before trial.

Filipino leaders, who have prisoners ranging from age 10 to 66, chained a Communist Party member to a bed 24 hours a day and subjected his and others to solitary confinement, water torture and beatings.

In South Africa, a report released last week said former prisoners claimed they were routinely tortured, including beatings and electrical shock. About 3,000 people, most of them blacks, have been detained without trial in the seven weeks since the white minority government declared a state of emergency.

In Poland, the wise of Solidarity founder Lech Walesa asked women’s groups worldwide to urge Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski’s government to release a university teacher who is “four months pregnant, feeble and recently treated for tuberculosis.”

In Guatemala, hundreds of dissidents have “disappeared.” One man who made inquiries about his missing brother was arrested. His battered body was found the next day covered with what relatives described as blowtorch burns, Laulicht said.

South Korea’s leading opposition party identified 150 “political prisoner students convicted of antigovernment activities.

Human rights groups say 14 Argentinians are in jail on convictions.

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