date: March 07, 2011
document id: ALRC-COS-16-17-2011
HRC section: Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Torture
An Oral Statement to the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status
ASIA: Torture must be eradicated as part of Pakistan’s “new dawn”
The ALRC welcomes the work and report of the Special Rapporteur on torture. In North Africa and the Middle East, revolutions are currently toppling repressive governments that have used torture and other grave abuses to control populations through fear, for decades. During the recent Special Session on Libya, Pakistan made a landmark statement on behalf of the OIC, speaking of a new dawn, a time of reckoning, in which justice, equality and the rule of law must prevail. These welcome words must be accompanied by action beyond these walls, however. The eradication of torture – that favoured tool of repressive governments – is an essential starting point for such action, and we would welcome any comments you may have about this, Mr. Special Rapporteur.
For several years, the ALRC has been reporting to this Council on the existence of tens of secret torture camps being operated by the Pakistani military. Welcoming the importance you give to secret detention in your report, we urge you to intervene with the government to close these camps without delay and ensure that Pakistan immediately lifts all reservations made when ratifying the Convention Against Torture, as these remain insurmountable barriers to complaints, investigations and the justice and rule of law the government now publicly covets. Pakistan is urged to immediately grant the visit requested by your mandate and we hope that the government will commit publicly to all of the above during this session. The government of India must also halt its obstruction of a requested visit, which has been pending since 1993.
In your report, you highlight the need for States to criminalise torture in line with Article 4 of the Convention. OIC-member Bangladesh, which suffers from widespread, endemic torture, currently has a Bill before Parliament that will criminalise torture. Will you be intervening with the government to ensure that this critical opportunity is not lost?
In your report you express the need for victims to be allowed to participate actively in attempts to hold torturers accountable. In OIC-member Indonesia, in widely reported cases of torture of indigenous persons by the military in Papua in 2010, the perpetrators have been tried by opaque military tribunals and received only minor sentences unrelated to torture. We urge your mandate to intervene concerning Indonesia’s lack of an adequate definition and criminal penalties for torture, and failure to try alleged perpetrators in civilian courts, depriving victims of justice and reparation.
In addition to those mentioned above, the ALRC also calls on the following Asian States, which remain blighted by torture and impunity – including Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand – to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on Torture and to implement in full all recommendations made to them concerning torture. To quote Pakistan, “the rules of the game have changed and those who do not embrace this will be swept away.”