ASIA: Working against torture poses threats to human rights defenders

An Oral Statement to the 37th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)

Mr. President.

Torture and ill treatment are institutionalised in the criminal justice architecture of most Asian states and is practiced as state policy. Crime investigation often begins and ends with a confession statement for which torture is used as a tool. Impunity to torture also promotes its use by the state to silence the voices dissent. A domestic law criminalising torture or the state being party to the CAT or the membership of a state in this Council are all irrelevant in these circumstances.

Asian states like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Philippines are examples where torture is criminalised at the national level, yet its practice continues with impunity. States like India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar has no plans to even criminalise the act.

In all these states, human rights defenders engaged in documenting, reporting and assisting victims of torture undertake this responsibility facing exceptional levels of threat to their profession and person. The ALRC has documented and reported cases during the past six months, where human rights defenders have been attacked by the states, whereupon their bank accounts are frozen, registration of their organisations cancelled, arrested under fabricated charges by the state’s misuse of its criminal justice institutions, and states engaged in the illegal electronic and personal surveillance of human rights defenders.

We are of the opinion that the absence of independent justice institutions and processes is one of the reasons why torture and ill treatment continue with impunity in Asia. It is also due to this that human rights defenders who are unfairly targeted by the Asian states find no domestic support mechanisms against abuse of power by the state.

We therefore call upon the Council and two Rapporteurs that to engage with Asian states, with a view to promote criminal justice institutions in Asia as immediately as possible.

Thank you, Mr. President.

UN Web TV Video Link: (Please scroll down on the list of speakers on the right hand side and click on clip number 59 to find Asian Legal Resource Centre)

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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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