Government urged to develop a National Law on prevention of Torture
- urges National Conference on Torture -
New Delhi: The “National Conference on Prevention of Torture in India” organized today by Asian Centre for Human Rights urged the Government of India to bring a comprehensive national law to prohibit and prevent torture by putting the onus on the accused law enforcement personnel and putting in place guarantees for the protection of the victims and witnesses of torture. The National Conference also urged to repeal the laws which facilitate the perpetration of torture, ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture and extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit India.
The inaugural session of the National Conference was addressed by Mr P C Sharma, former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation and Member of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Mr Parimal Bardan of the Delegation of the European Commission to India and Mr Larry Maybee, Regional Legal Advisor of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The National Conference stated the statistics of torture as provided by National Human Rights Commission such as 1,493 custodial deaths including 136 deaths in police custody and 1,357 deaths in judicial custody during 2004-2005 represent only miniscule of the cases of torture in India. With 19 out of 28 States of India presently being afflicted by internal armed conflicts, violence and torture by the security forces and the armed opposition groups have become more blatant, acute and rampant.
The armed opposition groups are responsible for barbaric torture such as chopping off tongues, firing at legs and mutilation of the body parts in order to create fear. Often victims are brutally tortured in full public view and then sentenced to deaths by the socalled Jana Adalats. The International Committee of the Red Cross must be permitted to ensure the respect for the Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions on Non-International Armed Conflicts.
“Despite Home Minister Shivraj Patil's assurance of 30 March 2006 to bring a law on providing compensation to victims of custodial violence, no law has so far been presented.”- stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.
The National Conference also censured India's continued refusal to extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
“India also continues to maintain the dubious distinction of refusing an invitation to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture for the longest period of time since 1993. This is despite the fact that India's neighbours, Pakistan, Nepal and China had invited the Special Rapporteur while the United Nations Committee Against Torture also visited Sri Lanka in 2004.” – further Stated Mr Chakma.
While signing the UN Convention Against Torture on 14 October 1997, India stated that “ratification of the Convention is to follow”. After 10 years, no decision has been taken. The government of India established an Inter-Ministerial Group consisting of the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Justice on the question of early ratification of the CAT but no recommendation has so far been made by the said Committee.
The National Conference also urged the Government of India to implement recommendations of the Justice (retd) Jeevan Committee to Review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 and to do away with the regime of impunity by repealing Sections 45 and 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code which make it mandatory to seek prior permission of the governments for prosecution of the law enforcement personnel accused of human rights of violations.