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More Britons than Russians condone torture, and it's TV's fault, says Amnesty

More people in Britain believe torture can be justified than in Russia - partly thanks to popular TV shows such as 24, Homeland and Spooks, human rights campaigners have said.

Nearly one in three people - or 29% - in the UK thinks torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to protect the public, compared to 25% in Russia, according to a new poll conducted by Amnesty International.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: "These findings are alarming, we really didn't foresee this sort of response from people in the UK and it shows we have got a lot of work to do.

"It looks from these results like we have placed panic over principle. People have bought into the idea that their personal safety can be enhanced in some way through the use of torture. That is simply untrue.

"Programmes like 24, Homeland and Spooks have glorified torture to a generation - but there's a massive difference between a dramatic depiction by screenwriters, and its real-life use by government agents in torture chambers.

"We decided as a society, a long time ago, that torture is simply wrong and can never be justified in any circumstances. That is one of the moral pillars on which our culture is based.

"That belief is borne out by the other results we have published today, which show that people here insist on the need for clear standards and rules to prevent torture and the confidence they report in the knowledge that they won't personally be victims of torture.

"Everyone around the world should be able to enjoy that same assurance."

The survey also showed 15% of people in the UK, around three in 20, fear being tortured if they are detained by the authorities - while 86% agreed clear rules against torture were needed.

The research is published as Amnesty launched a new Stop Torture campaign and revealed that 27 different types of torture were reported during 2013/14, in at least 79 countries so far.

Beatings with fists, rifle butts, wooden clubs and other objects, needles being forced underneath a victim's fingernails, a prisoner having their joints drilled and boiling water being poured onto the body feature on the macabre list of torture techniques used across the world.

Electric shocks, stubbing out cigarettes on the body, water torture and use of stress positions and sustained sleep deprivation also feature.

Criminal and security suspects, dissidents, political rivals and even schoolchildren have all been subjected to torture, Amnesty said.

Since 1984, 155 countries have ratified the United Nations' Convention Against Torture.

However, Amnesty has accused governments around the world of "betraying" their commitments to stamp out torture.

The non-governmental organisation has called for protective mechanisms such as proper medical examinations, prompt access to lawyers and independent investigations of torture to be introduced to strengthen attempts to prevent torture.

Amnesty International's secretary general Salil Shetty said: "Torture is not just alive and well - it is flourishing in many parts of the world.

"Governments around the world are two-faced on torture - prohibiting it in law, but facilitating it in practice.

"As more governments seek to justify torture in the name of national security, the steady progress made in this field over the last 30 years is being eroded."

Dr Bernadette Rainey, Cardiff Law School lecturer and co-editor of textbook Jacobs, White & Ovey: The European Convention on Human Rights said torture is happening in European states.

She said: "It's not just happening in far-flung places. The European Court of Human Rights continues to find European states in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Many violations concern conditions in prisons, in custody and disappearances.

"In 2013, there were findings of ill treatment in 174 judgements against 22 out of 47 contracting states. Out of these judgements, 11 cases involved findings of torture.

"The fact that so many Council of Europe states are still violating article 3 should remind us of the need to hold our own government to account for what it does at home and abroad."

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