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.

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