World Bulletin / News Desk
Solitary confinement of U.S. prisoners can amount to torture, and California would be wrong to force-feed hunger-striking inmates protesting against the practice, a U.N. expert said on Friday.
Californian prisoners launched a hunger strike on July 8 to demand an end to the housing of inmates in near-isolation for years on end because they are believed to be associated with gangs.
Juan E. Méndez, the independent United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, said the U.S. government should abolish the use of prolonged solitary confinement under all circumstances.
"Even if solitary confinement is applied for short periods of time, it often causes mental and physical suffering or humiliation, amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if the resulting pain or sufferings are severe, solitary confinement even amounts to torture," Méndez said in a statement.
Solitary confinement should only be used "in very exceptional circumstances, as a last resort, for as short a time as possible and with established safeguards in place" and under strict medical supervision.
About 80,000 U.S. prisoners are in solitary confinement, including nearly 12,000 in California, said the statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Méndez was particularly concerned about California's Pelican Bay maximum security prison, which has more than 400 prisoners who have been in isolation for over a decade, with an average time in solitary of 7.5 years.
California's jails won federal court permission this week to force-feed hunger-striking inmates, even if they have signed orders asking not to be resuscitated. A prison health spokeswoman said on Tuesday there was no imminent need to do so.
As of Monday, 136 inmates were taking part in the strike.
Méndez said it was "not acceptable to use threats of forced feeding or other types of physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike".
In many cases the inmates are isolated for 22-23 hours per day in cells measuring 8 by 12 feet (2.5 by 3.5 metres), with poor ventilation and no natural light, the statement said.
The comments by Méndez, a professor at the American University - Washington College of Law, are not binding on the United States, but his opinions could form the basis for debate at the United Nations.
The U.S. record is due to be scrutinised in October by the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with a landmark treaty on civil and political rights.
Méndez is himself a former torture victim from Argentina.
The Caspian Sea states have agreed on six points of the draft convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea after two days of talks in Baku.
A senior leader has appealed to the Supreme Court to scrap the death penalty.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday expressed concern that Iran may eventually develop the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons.
The deal, brokered by the world body and already signed by the southern Bamako government, aims to put a stop to decades of Tuareg uprisings.
Police officer says seven people died and 23 others were injured in multiple explosions in Baghdad
According to Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported, a Palestinian tried to stab a group of Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Tension has mounted in the occupied West Bank since the abduction
President refused U.N.-brokered talks with their powerful movement unless they withdrew from Sanaa.
The attacks were in Syria and Iraq, attacking fighting positions.
The ECB will purchase sovereign debt until at least September 2016.
Turkey's defense chief says Turkey, already training Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces and Syrian opposition forces, offers the same help to Iraqi military
Woman was five months pregnant tests confirmed presence of H1N1 virus
Egypt's Sisi changed interior minister with local media reporting that Magdi Abdel-Ghaffer is the new replacement.
Strengthening army would ease conflict in East Ukraine
Experimental shots from Merck-Newlink and GSK to be tested, with Guinea trial to take use "ring vaccination" stategy.
A missile fired by Syrian regime jet has allegedly targeted a school in Syria's Idlib province. Killed 18 civilians, including seven students
A Palestinian security source said the three policemen had been pursuing a "wanted" Palestinian man who had fled through the Israeli checkpoint