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By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Jan 30 (Reuters) - A U.N. human rights investigator said on Tuesday torture is both widespread and routine in Jordan, especially to extract confessions from terrorism suspects, while security forces enjoy total impunity.
Manfred Nowak, United Nations special rapporteur for torture, called on the Jordanian government to investigate and prosecute all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and also make changes to domestic laws.
Torture is punished by a maximum prison term of three years, but no Jordanian official has been prosecuted for the crime, according to his 38-page report.
"The practice of torture is widespread in Jordan, and in some places routine, namely the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), the Public Security Directorate’s Criminal Investigation Department, as well as Al-Jafr Correction and Rehabilitation Centre," Nowak said in the report.
He was referring to Jordan’s two top security prisons, which he said were often cited as the "two most notorious torture centres in Jordan," and to a desert facility in the south.
Nowak, who held private interviews with 40 detainees in Jordan and talks with several ministers, accused authorities of denying him the right to speak to inmates at the GID and of attempting to obstruct his work and "hide evidence" at the CID.
However, he cited consistent and credible allegations that torture was used at GID headquarters "to extract confessions and obtain intelligence in pursuit of counter-terrorism and national security objectives" and at CID headquarters, also in Amman, to extract confessions in routine criminal investigations.
He welcomed King Abdullah’s order last December to close Jafr, which Nowak said had served as "a punishment center".
Jordanian security officials have denied any systematic violations of prisoners’ rights. A close U.S. ally in its war on terrorism, Jordan borders Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
BEATINGS WITH TRUNCHEONS
Methods used in Jordan include beatings with truncheons, batons, electrical cables and broom handles, burning detainees with cigarettes and forcing them to hold painful positions for long periods, according to the U.N. investigator.
Humiliating treatment and insults were also common.
Nowak, whose team included a forensic expert, saw seven detainees with "rail-track" bruises which seemed to corroborate beatings with cabling, an "institutional procedure" at Jafr.
His report is to be examined by the U.N. Human Rights Council, where Jordan holds a vice-presidency this year. The 47-member forum opens its next four-week session on March 12.
The Austrian law professor said Jordan’s domestic laws against torture were "totally meaningless" because the security services are "effectively shielded from independent criminal prosecution and accountability".
Jordan’s constitution should be amended to include an absolute prohibition of torture, he said.