United Nations Press Release


Commission on Human Rights
57th session
4 April 2001
Evening and Night

The Commission on Human Rights continued its debate on civil and political rights in an extended meeting from 6 p.m. to midnight, hearing from country delegations about national efforts to promote those rights and from non-governmental organizations who alleged violations of civil and political rights around the world.

On the issue of torture, a number of country delegations expressed their support for the Working Group on an optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The issue of forced disappearances was also raised by some Government speakers who pledged to investigate all such cases. Some speakers regretted the absence of an international instrument which spelt out obligations of States in this regard.

Other statements stressed the importance of the independence of the judiciary, the need to ban capital punishment worldwide, and the importance of constitutional and legal systems to provide strong guarantees to human rights, including freedom of religion and beliefs.

Non-governmental organizations alleged violations of civil and political rights in various countries and regions. Transgressions concerning freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and incidents of torture were claimed.

SANJEEWA LIYANAGE, of the Asian Legal Resource Centre, said that in Sri Lanka the prosecution of torture suffered the same defects of the prosecution system as did all other serious violations, such as extrajudicial killings. The prosecutor would act only if criminal investigations were conducted by the police and a dossier containing evidence was submitted to the department. Naturally, in the case of the offenses alleged to have been committed by law enforcement officers, such as torture, there was rarely a criminal investigation. In Nepal, the police at times used torture to punish suspects or to extract confessions. In Thailand, the heavy shackling of prisoners still existed despite many protests. In India, offenses made punishable under the Prevention of Atrocities Act were hardly prosecuted. Enforced disappearances continued in many Asian countries. Sri Lanka’s record was even more dismal that many other countries. In Indonesia in 1965-1966, Soharto and his allies had orchestrated the disappearance or murder of over one million Indonesians in the name of “communist cleansing”.

Right to Reply

A Representative of Thailand, speaking in right of reply, as for the use of shackles in Thai prisons, the Representative indicated that shackles were used only in particular circumstances, when prisoners attempted to escape, commit suicide, or were dangerous and threatened to injure other prisoners.


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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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