ASIA: Criminal justice systems are failing to enforce international norms and standards on protection of rights

Date: September 17, 2013
Document id: ALRC-COS-24-09-2013
HRC section: Item 4, General Debate
Speaker: Mr. Danilo Reyes

An Oral Statement to the 24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

ASIA: Criminal justice systems are failing to enforce international norms and standards on protection of rights

Thank you Mr. President,

The ALRC welcomes the report submitted by the Secretary-General which provides an analysis of international legal and institutional framework in the administration of justice. The report concludes that its main challenges lie in its implementation at the domestic level. The ALRC wishes to draw the attention of the Council that, in Asia, the real challenge is the failing criminal justice systems.

In South Asia it is a rampant practice for the police to deny access to justice by delaying or even refusing the registration of complaints. When they do eventually register cases, concerns remain as to the impartiality of investigations and delays in trials. In India, de-jure impunity is in practice through legal instruments, notably in the Code of Criminal Procedure, Army Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act, to validate impunity for State perpetrators.

In Nepal, the orders of the Supreme Court to the government to investigate cases of human rights violations during the conflict have not been implemented. Threats against human rights defenders have also intensified.

In Sri Lanka the constitutional changes introduced in 1972 and 1978 has negated the basic foundation for the rule of law resulting in uncertainty of the law in public institutions. The removal of Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayke has destroyed the principles of separation of powers. The situation now appears to be beyond repair. Also, there is an increasing engagement by the armed forces in civilian policing.

In Southeast Asia, in Indonesia, of the numerous past gross violations, the human rights court examined only the cases of violations in East Timor, Tanjung Priok and Abepura. However, all the perpetrators have been acquitted. Atrocities by the military against the Papuans in 1977 to 1978 killing at least 4,000 people including women and children have not even been investigated.

In the Philippines, nearly four years after the Anti-Torture Act took effect, none of the perpetrators of torture have been convicted.

The ALRC notes that unless these problems in the enforcement of rights in domestic justice institutions are adequately addressed, there is no room for victims to obtain effective remedy.

Thank you.

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About ALRC

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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