U.N.: U.S. must do more to combat sexual violence in its prisons

U.S. authorities are failing to protect prisoners held in domestic prisons against acts of sexual violence, a U.N. report said Friday.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture, whose report also criticized U.S. policies in its war on terrorism, said the United States needed to improve conditions as well at home for women and children under custody.

The committee, a panel of 10 independent experts who review adherence to the 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture, criticized slowness in investigating claims of sexual assault in U.S. prisons and said "appropriate measures to combat these abuses have not been implemented."

Citing what it called "reliable reports" of sexual assault of sentenced prisoners under U.S. custody, it said the United States "should design and implement appropriate measures to prevent all sexual violence, in all its detention centers."

It noted that people of "differing sexual orientation" were particularly vulnerable.

"The state party should ensure that all allegations of violence in detention centers are investigated promptly and independently, perpetrators are prosecuted and appropriately sentenced and victims can seek redress, including appropriate compensation," the report said.

The treatment of women in U.S. detention facilities also needs to be improved, the committee said, citing humiliating conditions that included the shackling of female prisoners during childbirth.

The committee urged the United States to adopt "appropriate measures to ensure that women in detention are treated in conformity with international standards."

Conditions for children in detention also need to be upgraded, the committee said. It said minors are often not separate from adults during pretrial detention and after sentencing, and expressed concern that "large numbers of children" in the United States are sentenced to life imprisonment.

Detained children should be "kept in facilities separate from those for adults," the committee said, and life sentences for children could be considered a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, reports the AP.

I.L.