The Asian Human Rights Commission will work to draw the attention of civil society and governments to the endemic torture that is prevalent in almost all Asian countries. Despite many declarations by governments, torture is carried out every day in almost all police stations throughout Asia. The routine practice of torture in normal criminal investigations, including petty crimes, is an experience that many people face in these countries.
Torture has a profound impact of creating fear and intimidation, while also obstructing the development of democracy, free speech and free association. A culture of violence in Asia is built on the prevalence of torture in these societies. Even children grow up in an atmosphere where torture is tolerated and constantly used. Torture remains the main obstacle to the creation of a society with traditions of tolerance and humane traditions which involve the foundation of trust and respect for the dignity of all.
Torture retards the development of the state. People do not grow up with a respect for the state, but fear of the state because torture employs the highest coercive power against ordinary citizens of the country. This fear of coercion affects the development of citizens’ active participatory political life. Instead, the powerful use the instrument of torture to prevent the participation of ordinary folk in societal affairs. The utilization of the police to create intimidation affects the development of the political parties in Asia. This intimidation of people on a grassroots level results in traditions where the development of political parties is severely retarded.
Torture is done with the consent of the highest authorities of the state. As a result, legal mechanisms with which citizens can make complaints about the police do not exist in many Asian countries. Even where avenues for complaints do exist, the genuine mechanisms for enquiries into these complaints are few and far between. As a result, people who practice torture enjoy impunity.
The prevalence of impunity further engenders torture, and a cycle of violence is perpetuated. Although in many instances it is the lower ranking officers who are used for directly incurring torture on others, their actions are carried out with the connivance of higher officers of the police and state. The higher officers of the police and the state bear command responsibility for the prevalence of torture. Often, the lower ranking officers are only used with the full knowledge by the higher officers in order to achieve aims which are legally forbidden.
The prevalence of torture is often associated with the type of policing that continues to prevail in Asia. This is a primitive type of policing where information on crimes is sought through the use of torture and violence. The prevalence of this method of policing is often the result of inadequate funding provided by the state for the development of a well-functioning policing system. In many countries, the development of modern policing systems is prevented by people who fear that the development of effective governance and the rule of law will affect their power basis.
Thus, the development of rule of law systems based on modern legal systems and practices are prevented by those who benefit from the abuse of power and ineffective governance. The state often engages in practices which result in retardation of the development of effective legal mechanisms for the protection of civil society members. In the absence of proper legal mechanisms, the control of society falls back on primitive practices and the use of torture.
Thus, the question of torture is a primary problem in Asia.
The prevalence of torture retards not only the development of the state but also the development of relationships between members of civil society. Where police torture prevails, violence against women including domestic violence prevails. When the state tolerates the use of violence in dealings with citizens, the citizens develop mentalities and practices where violence is accepted, particularly in the area of domestic life. As a result, the overall framework of torture supports patriarchal society and the practices of domination which prevent human relationships on the basis of genuine equality, liberty and respect.
The use of torture also influences other forms of discrimination. For example, in South Asian societies, the use of torture against those who are considered to be lower caste or out-caste is a common practice. In such cases, torture has become the symbol of unequal treatment within society.
Dealing with torture is an urgent problem from every point of view. Members of civil society need to discuss this problem extensively and develop methods which promote the Convention Against Torture (CAT) promulgated by the United Nations. The development of social relationships based on a democratic culture must be a primary aim in our societies.
In many countries, torture has not yet been made into a crime. Torture must be recognized as a crime, and mechanisms need to be developed for people to make complaints of torture and have these complaints properly investigated. The mentalities must be developed within the police, the prosecution system and the judiciary to discourage the tolerance of torture and other kinds of cruel and inhumane punishment. This practice should also be discouraged in all prisons.
The AHRC therefore calls for the month between May 26th and June 26th to be devoted to a discussion of the means by which torture can be eliminated from our societies, by all civil society and state organizations. Various kinds of educational activities, promotional activities, lobbying and advocacy should be developed in all countries during this period in order to highlight this pressing problem.
On June 26th, the International Day Against Torture is celebrated internationally. This day should mark a significant day for Asia wherein we may take firm methods to deal with this problem in years to come.