Torture is rife in Equatorial Guineas prisons says UN expert

The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, reported that torture is used by police forces against detainees – political prisoners as well as suspects of common crimes – to extract confessions or information and sometimes as punishment, intimidation or to extort money.The police abuse reported to him and corroborated by expert medical analysis included beatings to the soles of feet and buttocks with batons, solid rubberized cables and wooden bars; electric shocks with starter cables attached to different parts of the body with alligator clips; various forms of suspension with hands and feet tied together for prolonged periods and beating victims while they swing back-and-forth. “I am concerned about possible reprisals against detainees who provided testimony to us, in particular at the Central Police Stations in Malabo and Bata,” Mr. Nowak said after his 10-day fact-finding mission at the request of the Government.“The fact that I was denied access to both these facilities, when I went for follow-up visits, reinforces these concerns,” he added.He said that the absence of an independent judiciary, endemic corruption, arbitrary detention, evidence obtained through torture and the almost total impunity for those torturing prisoners are among the factors contributing to the absence of human rights for detainees in Equatorial Guinea.Mr. Nowak noted that holding cells are dirty, humid, and lack any sanitary or sleeping facilities. Food is only provided by detainees’ families or fellow inmates and access to water for drinking and washing is severely restricted. Detainees are usually not allowed to use the toilet, and as a result must resort to using plastic bottles or plastic bags. They have no possibility to exercise and have no access to medical care. He expressed concern that allegations of violence among detainees were frequently ignored or even tolerated by the authorities.“The fact that many detainees are held in these conditions well beyond the maximum of 72 hours stipulated by law, sometimes up to several months, exacerbates the situation and amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment,” said Mr. Nowak.Although prisons are spacious on the whole, the Special Rapporteur voiced concern at the prohibition of family visits. He stressed that contact with the outside world is a major component of successful rehabilitation and reintegration of detainees as required by article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.Political prisoners in one prison have been held in solitary confinement for up to four years, without being allowed the one hour of exercise per day required by international minimum standards.“Moreover, they are held in leg irons practically all the time. Prolonged solitary confinement and the permanent use of leg irons amount to inhuman treatment.”The Special Rapporteur said that detained immigrants pending deportation were held in police cells for long periods of time in poor conditions with no food or water since they have no family nearby. They also run an increased risk of discrimination and physical abuse from other inmates with the approval of the police.He added that women and children were also particularly vulnerable as they are not separated from men and are exposed to the risk of sexual violence, a clear violation of international norms.“The context that allows torture to continue unabatedly is characterized by the non-functioning of the administration of justice and, therefore, the absence of the rule of law,” noted Mr. Nowak.Mr. Nowak recommended a comprehensive institutional and legal overhaul establishing law enforcement bodies based on the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms to effectively combat torture for the country to comply with international human rights law and its own constitution.“I would advise the international community, including trans-national corporations, to ensure that, in their development cooperation and business practices, they are not complicit in violations of human rights by state authorities.” 19 November 2008Detainees kept in police custody in Equatorial Guinea are victims of systematic torture, and prisoners suffer inhuman conditions, an independent United Nations human rights expert said in a press statement today, blaming a break down in the country’s judicial system. read more

Microsoft continues its massive revamp with new Office software

by Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press Posted Jan 29, 2013 12:31 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Microsoft continues its massive revamp with new Office software TORONTO – It’s been a massively busy last few months for Microsoft, which saw the computer giant release new operating systems for PCs and mobile phones and its first-ever tablet, the Surface.Now it’s the industry-standard Office software suite getting a major update, including a new option to purchase an annual subscription instead of buying a permanent copy.There are multiple options for consumers, starting with buying Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher or Access a la carte for $119 each. Office Home & Student 2013 for use on one computer — which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote — goes for $139. Office Home & Business 2013 adds Outlook and sells for $249.Then there’s the subscription-basedOffice 365, which encourages users to save documents online and edit them across up to five different devices, including Microsoft smartphones and the Surface. It’s $10 a month or $99 a year.“The proliferation of devices and the new requirements of (how people use) technology is why the new version is so important,” said Microsoft Canada president Max Long in an interview.“You’ll be able to have it across five different devices, you choose which devices you want, you’ll be able to have the data follow you. I can take my notes on my tablet and when I’m going out to see customers I can see the same document, the same information, on my mobile phone as well.“The ability now to have it across multiple devices really makes it an attractive proposition and we do expect quite a large percentage of Office users when they buy the new version will go to that subscription version.”Unlike Windows 8 — which has polarized PC users with its radical new interface that many found unintuitive — Long promises Office users will need no adjustment period for the new software.“If you come in and look at (the new) Office you’ll see a lot of similarities and you’ll be able to go in there and be comfortable from the first usage,” he said and insisted PC users are getting over the initial shock of Windows 8 and adapting.Windows 8 got rid of the familiar Start button and hid the traditional Desktop interface. Instead, users are first presented with a layout of tiles that resembles a tablet or smartphone home screen. Users must click through that home screen to get to the Desktop.“People got used to the different interfaces and certainly we found people have migrated very much to the live tiles as they’ve got more used to it,” Long said.Microsoft is an underdog in the mobile world, a long ways away from challenging Apple and Google’s Android. But it is within striking range of Research in Motion’s share of the market and Long said Microsoft’s strategy is to convince consumers of the merits of having a Windows operating system on all their computers and mobile devices.“If you’re used to using Windows 8 on your laptop or you’re using a Surface device or an all-in-one (computer) at home, to have that same experience and have the connected look and feel when you go to a Windows phone is really important to a lot of folks,” Long said.He’ll be paying attention to RIM’s big BlackBerry 10 launch on Wednesday, which is seen as a make-or-break moment for the Waterloo, Ont.-based company.“They’re a good Canadian company and it would be totally remiss of me not to pay attention to what they’re announcing and be engaged and understand what’s going on,” he said.“So yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing what they announce and seeing what they’re bringing to market.” read more