ASIA: The ongoing deep divide between discourse and implementation

date: March 13, 2008
document id:ALRC-COS-07-003-2008
speaker: Mr. Rafendi Djamin
HRC section: Item 3: General Debate

A Joint Oral Statement to the 7th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), INFID, and Pax Romana-ICMICA/MIIC.

ASIA: The ongoing deep divide between discourse and implementation

Thank you Mr. President,

We remain concerned that despite the jus cogens nature of the prohibition of torture and the ratification of the Convention Against Torture (CAT) by most UN member states, the practice of torture has increased since 9/11 and goes unpunished in most Asian nations. In Asia, torture is not an exception, but rather is a common tool used in sham investigations, corrupting the course of justice, and as a method of social control.

Having waited for nearly fourteen years, the Government of Indonesia has finally allowed the Special Rapporteur on torture to conduct a follow-up country visit. We deeply regret that the Rapporteur did not have the opportunity to visit the intelligence service headquarters based in Jakarta, given its past record concerning torture and its ongoing role concerning the implementation of Anti terrorism Law No. 15, 2003, which increases the risk of torture for suspects.

We also regret the statement delivered by Ms. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, on behalf of the Government of Indonesia that will not only be detrimental to its commitment to respect and support the UN mechanisms in protecting human rights, but will also deplete Indonesian citizens’ protection against torture. The statement in question clearly attempts to water down the Rapporteur’s valuable report and a number of positive recommendations. In particular, we welcome the Rapporteur’s findings on the torture of children.

In Thailand, recent reports reveal that torture is systematic and widespread and is being carried out by the military as well as paramilitary groups and the Special Forces in secret detention locations, notably in the South. Reports indicate that torture generally occurs during the first three days of detention, notably as the result of a directive by the chief of the 4th Army that permits incommunicado detention in places other than prisons or police stations during this period. No investigations of any reported instances of torture are being conducted. To force confessions, people have been beaten, held naked in refrigerated rooms, forced to eat spoilt food, and subjected to electric shocks. Medical attention is routinely denied. Complainants are being threatened.

In Sri Lanka, we know of five media workers who are being tortured in the Terrorism Investigation Division in Colombo, as we speak here, following their arrest on March 7. They are named Gayan Lasantha Ranga, Udayanan, V. Jesikaran, J. S. Tissanayagam, and Kithsiri Wijesinghe. The Council must play an immediate role in calling on the Representative of Sri Lanka in this room to take steps to halt these present acts of torture.

While attention seems to forever drift elsewhere, in Bangladesh, under the State of Emergency, huge numbers, estimated as being as many as 250,000 persons, have reportedly been arbitrarily arrested in just over a year, with many of these having been subjected to torture. We have been informed of at least 100 resultant custodial deaths, although actual figures are likely higher. The Council must be able to act to address such grave situations and move beyond discourse to measurably effective actions.

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About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.


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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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