The Indian media’s lack of appreciation and understanding of torture and the importance torture plays in undermining free speech and dialogue is suicidal, says the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), issuing a statement exclusively highlighting the commonality of “torture practiced inside police stations and other centres of law-enforcement” in India.
Observing the “International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture” (26 June), the AHRC notes, “Torture and the concept of democracy do not coexist. Torture works against the fundamentals of justice and the rule of law.” While noting that the proposed Bill on torture in India is the result of the hard work of domestic and international human rights organisations and the civil society, the AHRC statement hastens to add, “The lack of a consultative process by the government (of India), which is intentional, is evident in the Bill.”
Full text of the Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission follows.
The world today observes the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture. Human rights organisations inside and outside India observes the day as an occasion to reach out to the victims of torture and to encourage the government to take steps to condemn torture and further to criminalise the act, an offense considered to be a crime against humanity.
India and Indians are not immune to torture. Neither is the act of torture a crime in India. In fact, thousands of individuals fall prey to torture each year in the country. It is practiced inside police stations and other centres of law-enforcement. Torture is so common in India that it is no more a highly secretive act practiced in hidden locations. Torture is viewed as an acceptable mode for criminal investigation and is condoned by jurists and policymakers alike. Torture is also resorted to as a form of punishment.
Torture and the concept of democracy do not coexist. Torture works against the fundamentals of justice and the rule of law. Torture is not a stale human rights issue that has to be left for the consideration of the courts or that of human rights activists. Torture is the enforced monologue by the state to the people to constantly remind them that the state has the will and the means to enforce its writ whether the people like it or not. Enforced monologue by the state is the character associated with dictatorship.
The quintessence of democracy is governance through consultation. Torture prevents dialogue and discourages consultation. Complaining against torture is complaining against the state. Discouraging a complaint is demoralising to the complainant. Complaint is also a form of expression. Freedom of expression and speech also cannot coexist with torture.
Not all victims of torture can complain or remind the state that it has a responsibility to provide redress, and further by providing redress, remind future perpetrators that torture would not be tolerated. In India torture is not criminalised.
The proposed Bill on torture in India is the result of the hard work of domestic and international human rights organisations and the civil society. Though the Bill is a leap forward, it lacks clarity and any inbuilt means to effectively prevent torture. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has issued a statement [AHRC-STM-146-2009] on 24 June in support of the “International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture”, analysing the Bill and explaining its drawbacks. The lack of a consultative process by the government, which is intentional, is evident in the Bill.
Human rights organisations in India have today organised several gatherings in the country, to observe today as the day against torture. The cardinal theme that most of these gatherings and events have brought up is the demand to criminalise torture, and that too without any further delay.
Yet, the silence of the media in the country by not devoting enough space to speak about the international day against torture is shameful. It exposes the lack of appreciation and understanding of the Indian media about the importance of torture and the destructive role it plays in undermining free speech and expression. It also illuminates the professional neglect the media entrains against the concerns of the people.
June 26, 2009