August 29, 2005

Probe demanded into alleged Chicago police torture

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Civil rights lawyers on Monday asked a
rights panel to investigate allegations that Chicago police
detectives used electric shock and other forms of torture to
extract confessions from black suspects.

The lawyers said the request for a hearing before the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was meant to shame
authorities who failed to prosecute up to 20 detectives said to
have carried out abuse from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

Several civil cases have wound through the courts and
juries found that torture was routine under the command of
now-retired Commander John Burge.

When called to testify, Burge has repeatedly cited his
right not to incriminate himself. The city of Chicago has
provided for Burge's defense despite firing him.

The allegations say police detectives staged mock
executions, shocked the ears and genitalia of suspects with a
makeshift torture device, suffocated them with plastic and
slammed them with telephone books so as not to leave bruises,
the lawyers said. At least 135 black male suspects were
tortured, they said.

The Washington-based Inter-American Commission, which was
set up by the Organization of American States as a fact-finding
body, will decide within a few weeks whether to investigate,
said attorney Locke Bowman of the MacArthur Justice Center at
the University of Chicago.

Ultimately panel could issue a declaration to the U.S.
government asking it to prosecute, but its rulings are not
binding on U.S. citizens or institutions, a commission
spokesman said.

In the past, the panel has examined the issue of the death
penalty for juveniles and allegations of human rights
violations at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo, Cuba.

"There never has been a reckoning for this torture," Bowman
said at a news conference. "We're asking for a recommendation
to the U.S. government to take appropriate steps to punish the

A special prosecutor was appointed three years ago to look
into the alleged torture but no one has been charged, Bowman