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Amnesty International documented thousands of cases of torture across the world in 1999. Throughout Europe, torture and ill-treatment by police often racially motivated, was the most widely reported human rights abuse.

Major torturing states included Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Turkey and systematic torture in China formed part of the most serious and wide-ranging crackdown on peaceful dissent for a decade. Politically-motivated torture resurfaced in Zimbabwe for the first time since the late 1980s.

The report, which gives a detailed breakdown of the human rights situation in over 140 countries during 1999, also reveals a large increase in the number of countries conducting unfair trials for political prisoners. In 1998 the figure stood at 35 countries, while during 1999 that had risen to 51 countries - an increase of 46%.

The last year of the twentieth century was also marked by human rights atrocities spawned by calamitous conflicts such as those in East Timor, Chechnya, Colombia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kosovo.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

'While Amnesty International can welcome some trends, such as the continuing moves to abolish the death penalty around the world, there is a disturbing rise in the number of countries using torture and ill-treatment. Torture is a hell of humanity's own making for thousands of ordinary people around the world.'

There were also significant downward trends. Extrajudicial executions were confirmed or suspected to have been carried out in 38 countries, compared to 47 countries in 1998 - a reduction of 20%. There was also a decrease in the number of countries which held, or were believed to be holding, prisoners of conscience - 61 countries compared to 78 countries in 1998, a reduction of 22%.

The number of countries carrying out executions or holding prisoners under sentence of death, also fell by 14% and 18% respectively, reflecting the global trend toward abolition.

Amnesty International's Report 2000 is available for £20.99 (+P&P); credit card orders: telephone 01788 545553. Press copies and regional summaries are available free of charge from the press office.

Report 2000 will be available online at ENDS ... /

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