LONDON, Oct. 18 (AP)--Torture is on the rise around the world, fueled by racial and ethnic discrimination, Amnesty International said Wednesday as it announced a global campaign against a brutality it says afflicts dictatorships and democracies alike.
The human rights organization said it has found evidence of beatings, rape, electric shock, and other forms of torture in more than 150 countries, including the United States, Britain, and other developed democracies.
"Torture occurs in democracies on a daily basis, on a routine basis," Amnesty secretary-general Pierre Sane said at a press conference in London, one of several events the group held around the world.
Discrimination "paves the way to torture," Sane added.
The organization found reports of "widespread" torture by agents of the state in more than 70 countries between 1997 and 2000. In more than 80 countries, people died as the result of torture, Amnesty said.
In more than 40 countries, victims were given electric shocks, according to Amnesty researchers. In more than 50, they were subjected to mock execution, and in more than 30 they were beaten on the soles of their feet.
The organization studied cases of torture ranging from the rape and mutilation of civilians in war-torn Sierra Leone to the use of electric-shock "stun guns" on prisoners in the United States.
Amnesty International, best known for its work on behalf of political prisoners, said many torture victims are targeted because of their identity rather than their beliefs.
Victims of police brutality are disproportionately members of ethnic minorities, including black people in the United States, aboriginal Australians, and Roma gypsies in Europe, it said.
Many torture victims are accused criminals, the group said.
Margaret Mjeri, who was arrested by Kenyan police on suspicion of carjacking last year and released without being charged after five months in prison, spoke at an Amnesty news conference in Nairobi.
"They put me in a torture chamber, beat me everywhere with big wooden sticks," Mjeri said. "They put a piece of wood in my mouth and put pepper in my private parts...to make me confess I was a carjacker."
Amnesty urged governments to honor international agreements banning torture, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It also called for an end to incommunicado detention and said governments should treat domestic violence as a form of torture.
The group said countries must prosecute torturers and ensure redress for their victims.
"It's a global phenomenon that will only disappear if we have both national and global solutions," Sane said.