26th June 2012
South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) joins human rights activists around the World, in commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This year, the day marks the 25th anniversary of United Nations Convention Against Torture coming into effect.
Despite the fact that this Convention has been in force for a quarter century, only 147 States are party to it. Of the South Asian states, all but Bhutan have signed it, and India is yet to ratify the Convention.
Although many in the region are signatories to the Convention, its principles are not respected by all. Despite their apparent commitment to prevent acts of torture, and to ensure that such acts are punishable under their respective national criminal codes, the prevalence of torture, committed by State actors, is troubling.
One of the most terrible human rights abuses, torture takes many forms that cause not only physical suffering, but also has lasting psychological effects.
Torture deprives people of their most fundamental rights, enshrined not only in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically Article 5 – which states “No one shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” – but also by the Constitutions of most States.
In spite of broad ratification of the Convention in South Asia, SAHR hopes that States in the region will take another vital step in proving their commitment to eradicate torture, by signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
This protocol provides for international inspection of detention facilities, and is a crucial step towards greater transparency of State detention facilities, and consequently freedom from the practice of torture. To date, not a single State in the region has ratified this optional protocol.
SAHR stands with its fellow South Asian citizens in urging a region-wide rejection of the practice of torture, and greater adherence to international standards, to reaffirm their commitment to wiping out the inhuman practice.
Hina Jilani Nimalka Fernando