STRASBOURG (Reuters) - Germany should stop the "degrading" practice of surgically castrating sex offenders, the anti-torture panel at Europe's top human rights watchdog said on Wednesday.
Under German law, serious sex offenders can volunteer for the operation as part of their treatment.
The Strasbourg Council of Europe's anti-torture committee said the procedure was rare in Germany, with fewer than five cases a year over the past decade.
But surgical castration was mutilating and irreversible and there was no evidence it prevented men from committing new sex crimes, the committee said in a report on Germany.
"Surgical castration of detained sexual offenders could easily be considered as amounting to degrading treatment," said the report.
"Therefore, the Committee recommends that immediate steps be taken by the relevant authorities to discontinue in all German Laender (federal states) the application of surgical castration in the context of treatment of sexual offenders," it added.
The German government said in an official response to the report that the practice was under review but it believed there were medical grounds for continuing to offer the operation.
Under German regulations, a sex offender can be castrated if he ask for the procedure, is older than 25 and gets the approval of a panel of experts.
The Czech Republic is the only other European country to allow sexual offenders to choose surgical castration. The committee's report on Wednesday only focused on the situation in Germany.
A less invasive chemical procedure, that blocks the creation of testosterone, is a mandatory treatment for offenders in some U.S. states and in Poland.
Other countries let sex criminals choose this form of chemical castration.
(Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac; Additional reporting and writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Andrew Heavens)