Press Release

July 31, 2013

SICHREM condemns the move by the Central Government to launch The Central Monitoring System and demands its withdrawal

 

The South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) strongly condemns, the New Central Monitoring System (CMS), a see–all surveillance programme launched by the Central Government. It is a blatant attack on the right to life which is enshrined as a fundamental right in the Constitution and right to privacy is an integral part of right to life.

The right to privacy is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the United Nations adopted in the year 1948 10 December and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party in the year 1975. Article 17 of the ICCPR provides that, “(1) no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation; (2) everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

The term “correspondence” has been broadly recognized to cover all forms of communication, including via the Internet. The right to private correspondence thus gives rise to a comprehensive obligation on the part of the government to ensure that text messages, emails, and other forms of electronic communication are actually delivered to the desired recipient without arbitrary or unlawful interference or inspection by the government or by third parties.

The proposed manner of “snooping” by the Central Government is a direct attack on the constitutional rights of the citizens. In order to uphold its democratic principles and to prevent the formation of an authoritarian image, India needs to be transparent about who will be authorised to collect data, what data will be collected, how it will be used and such details.

The new proposed CMS system will be a violation of article 19(1) of the constitution which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression. There is also a threat that in the name of “society welfare”, this new system might actually be misused by public authorities.

While SICHREM firmly condemns any sort of violence by non-state actors as well as state actors, but in the name of curbing and preventing attacks and violence there are other measures that the government needs to take and SICHREM acknowledges the constitutional duty and responsibility cast on the Governments to protect the life of all people it equally stresses that whatever be the situation, the state must act within the confines of constitution.

SICHREM asserts that any counter strategies devised by the Government should adhere strictly to the rule of law, constitution and specific standards and obligations of international human rights law. 

SICHREM demands from the government that they need to keep all the above constitutional, fundamental human rights and principles of international law in mind while laws are being brought, which if not followed will be a blatant violation of all basic democratic principles.

The CMS is created without the parliament’s approval too, SICHREM demands that the government convene a full public debate about the intended use of the system before proceeding.

SICHREM joins in appeal with all other democratic and rights loving citizens for the immediate withdrawal of The Central Monitoring System.

 

Mathews Philip

Executive Director  

 

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PRESS RELEASE

July 17, 2013

26th JUNE UN INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SUPPORT OF VICTIMS OF TORTURE

SICHREM calls upon the Government of India to immediately ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“CAT”) and to pass a domestic legislation categorically prohibiting torture immediately.

26 June 2013 – On this date in 1987, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. It was an important step in the much-needed process of globalising human rights and acknowledging that torture, and all forms of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, are absolutely and universally illegal. In 1997, the United Nations General Assembly decided to mark this historic date and designated 26 June each year as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being. The United Nations has condemned torture from the outset as one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellow human beings.

Torture is a crime under international law. According to all relevant instruments, it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. This prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties in which torture is expressly prohibited. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.

Right to Rehabilitation is the theme for the 26 June 2013 campaign. At the end of 2012, the UN Committee against Torture published a General Comment on Article 14 of the Convention against Torture, which states: Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.

The General Comment clarified points of Article 14, namely that ,Holistic rehabilitation, needs to be provided which includes medical, psychological, legal and vocational support to survivors of torture, that it must be accessible at the soonest possible point after torture, and that torture victims have a right to choose their provider, be it non-governmental organisations or the State providing services.

Further Article 14 of the UN Convention Against Torture expressly provides that States should make compensation to torture survivors an enforceable right, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. It adds a fundamental element to the fight against torture by explicitly recognising that rehabilitation has to form part of the response to torture.

However, while international law grants all torture victims a right to rehabilitation, this is unfortunately not always a reality. As such, we wanted to use, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, to reiterate that victims of torture have this right – a Right to Rehabilitation – and that supporting victims of torture can mean providing as full rehabilitation as possible, through a holistic approach that includes medical, psychological, and social needs, and access to justice and redress.

As of  2013, there are 153 Countries , who have shown their commitment to eradicating torture by ratifying CAT and 78 countries are yet to ratify CAT – the Government of India signed on 14th October 1997 but has still not ratified CAT. Ratification would be an important step in securing the effective protection against torture by requiring changes to domestic law aligning Indian practice with the well-established international standards on torture.

In Karnataka, SICHREM has documented more than 50 cases of illegal detention, torture, encounters (extra-judicial killings), deaths in police & judicial custody from January 2013 to June 2013 (6months), and has filed complaints with the State Human Rights Commission, Government of Karnataka, the Police department and other human rights institutions.

The United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, gives us the opportunity to stand united and remind the world that torture is a cruel violation of human rights. Together, we affirm the right of survivors of torture to rehabilitation. We take the opportunity to remind governments to take seriously their responsibilities to ensure as full rehabilitation as necessary.

Therefore SICHREM demands the following from the Government of India:

1) To ensure that an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as justification for committing torture;

2) To provide an effective mechanism to promptly investigate any allegation of torture;

3) To make compensation an enforceable right, including the means for full rehabilitation.

AND

1. The immediate ratification of the Convention against Torture without any reservations and the signing and ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention;

2. The passing of legislation which penalizes torture and provides for a right to rehabilitation;

3. Specific safeguards protecting women, children, dalits and minorities, set out in legislation and strictly enforced through human rights institutions and court directions.