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Chicago police torture investigation needs to go further, panel says

Associated Press Writer

GENEVA- A four-year investigation into allegations of torture at the Chicago Police Department needs to go further, a U.N. anti-torture panel said Friday, calling on the United States to ensure punishment for law enforcement officials who mistreated suspects.

A report by the U.N. Committee Against Torture said the multimillion-dollar investigation into the alleged torture of 192 black men in interrogation rooms during the 1970s and 1980s was "limited" and has not yet led to any prosecutions.

Allegations include officers using suffocation techniques, such as placing a typewriter cover over a suspect's head, along with electric shocks, beatings and mock Russian Roulette to elicit confessions.

It is unclear whether the investigation will lead to indictments. Statutes of limitations could be an issue because some of the allegations date from the 1970s.

The United States "should promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate all allegations of acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law enforcement personnel and bring perpetrators to justice," said the committee, a panel of 10 independent experts who review nations' compliance with a 1984 global convention establishing a broad ban on prisoner mistreatment.

The U.N. report also criticized American policies in its war on terrorism, and said U.S. authorities are failing to protect prisoners held in domestic prisons against acts of sexual violence. It also called on the U.S. to improve conditions for women and children under custody.

Fernando Marino Menendez, an expert from Spain who chairs the committee, said the U.S. government needed to provide more information on what it was doing to ensure justice for people claiming to have been tortured by Chicago police.

U.S. authorities should inform the committee "if they have already found out some problems about police brutality and torture in Chicago, about which nothing has been done for some time," Marino Menendez told reporters.

Cook County's Chief Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel appointed special prosecutors Edward J. Egan and Robert D. Boyle in 2002 to investigate claims of torture by a violent crimes unit led by former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge, who has denied any misconduct but was fired in 1993 for mistreating a suspect. The investigation has cost US$5.5 million.

Biebel ruled Friday that a report stemming from the investigation should be released to the public, but he delayed issuing the document for two weeks. Attorneys for police officers involved in the case had argued against the release of the report.

Egan and Boyle want to disclose their findings to the public. The special prosecutors also want to make public the names of all the police officers and assistant state's attorneys they subpoenaed before a grand jury.

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