ASIA: Decisive state action key to end torture and ill-treatment
(Hong Kong, July 25, 2012) Parliamentarians from eight Asian states and civil society representatives, who met at Hong Kong for the first Asian parliamentarians' meeting organised by the Asian Alliance against Torture and Illtreatment (AAATI), demanded firm actions from Asian states to end torture and ill-treatment in the region.
Along with civil society representatives, dignitaries that attended the historic meeting include, Honourable: Mr. Eran Wickramaratne (Sri Lanka), Mr. V. T. Balram (India), Mr. Mohammad Fazlul Azim (Bangladesh), Ms. Pushpa Bhusal (Nepal), Ms. Abbasi Nusrat Bano and Mr. Saeed Ghani (Pakistan), Mr. Sayed Muhammad Muliady (Indonesia), and Mr. Raymond Palatino (Philippines). Also in attendance were human rights activists from Burma, Thailand and Denmark.
The four-day meeting concluded on 24 July. Parliamentarians and civil society representatives called for similar initiatives and consultations in every country in the region to tackle the prevailing widespread practice of torture.
The human right against torture and illtreatment is absolute and non-derogable, affirmed the participants. In states where laws criminalising torture exist, these laws must be effectively put to use, and in states where such laws are yet to be legislated, or remain under consideration, initiatives must be fast-tracked, demanded participants.
The parliamentarians affirmed that they would take-up this issue with their respective governments as a priority concern. Participants urged Asian governments to ensure the creation of effective criminal justice framework in all jurisdictions, realised through adequate institutional reforms, without which combating entrenched torture and illtreatment would be impossible in the region.
The participants unequivocally affirmed that key to this is the allocation of adequate monetary, infrastructural, and human resources to local policing. This is essential so that policing can evolve into a service-oriented and modern agency, able to meet the needs of the time, rather than an institution forced to be just a uniformed organ of the state that enforces legitimate and illegitimate state writs. Essential, radical, reforms in policing would contribute substantially to end the culture of corruption and impunity opined the participants.
The participants visited Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and also spent time speaking with senior members of the Hong Kong Bar Association. Out of the numerous insights gained from these visits, the necessity of an independent and corruption free judiciary, as it exists in Hong Kong, was iterated by participants.
Threats to state security are real in the region, just as they are in the rest of the world. However, dehumanising and demonising political opponents, and reducing spaces for public discourse on concerns of personal liberties, augmented by arbitrary and state-sponsored violence, is not the way ahead affirmed the participants. This tendency – to disregard the absolute nature of human rights in the ruse of national security – is not only dangerous but could reduce the notion of democracy, stated participants in the course of the four-day discussion. The rule of law, and uncompromising adherence to democratic practices and norms, is the best instrument to fight security threats, was the all-round affirmation.
Fundamental to open public consultations is the guarantee of freedom of expression and opinion. Parliamentarians and civil society representatives urged governments in the region to promote media freedoms and end circumscribing the same by law and practice.
The legislators in Asia, together with the civil society, can generate enough momentum to give rise to requisite popular debate against torture, was another consensus from the historic meeting. Participants agreed that similar gatherings should be organised again and that they would hold such sessions in their constituencies and countries to end torture and illtreatment.
In the mean-time, similar discussion forums in the countries and constituencies, in consultation with the AHRC, the RCT, and most importantly local human rights organisations, would be organised, stated the participants.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Hong Kong, and the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT), Denmark constituted the AAATI in July 2011. This four-day historic meeting of Parliamentarians, marking the one-year anniversary of the AAATI initiative, is another step towards the final goal of ending torture and illtreatment in Asia.
For further information please contact:
In Hong Kong
Mr. Basil Fernando, Director - Policies & Programmes (AHRC)
Telephone + 852 26986339