PUCL Bulletin, Jan. 2001

Letter:

Amnesty International's campaign against torture in India

Dear friends,
On 18 October Amnesty International launched a global campaign against torture. The main themes of this campaign are prevention, discrimination, and impunity.

Within the international campaign, we have been able to plan a strategy for individual countries according to need. I know that we have discussed a strategy on torture in India with some of you previously and that some of you have been waiting patiently for news of what is happening with the campaign. Apologies for that. Discussions on policy, resources, etc., have been ongoing here up until the last minute prior to the launch and in terms of addressing torture in India we decided some time ago that we wouldn't be ready to start campaigning activities until early 2001 because of other commitments so our schedule is later than earlier anticipated.

As most of you know, we do now have someone in Delhi who is coordinating AI membership work (Vijay Nagaraj). One of his major tasks will be to facilitate AI membership action on the issue of torture (campaigning against torture globally and awareness-raising about torture and India's obligations to prevent and prohibit it) but he would certainly hope to do much of this along with local organizations to link the global issue to the domestic reality and may be in touch with many of you in the coming months if he has not already.

In addition to this work we would like to encourage, during the next at least 12 months, an increased profile for the issue of torture, increased pressure on the government and legislatures as well as civil society to act to stop torture.

At the end of January we plan to publish a series of recommendations to the government. These draws together a range of recommendations made by the SC, NHRC, NPC, etc., into a set of steps that if taken could (we hope) make a difference. There is nothing particularly new in them (many were made during our 1992 campaign on India) but they are an attempt to find some practical ways of making a difference to the situation, recognizing for instance that until some reforms are made within the police system, corruption leading to violence will always be a problem, and that local-level monitoring is vital in a situation where often the law exists but is just ignored. These recommendations focus mainly on the issue of custodial torture although the campaign as a whole will address much broader issues of torture.

If you are interested in looking at/commenting on these draft recommendations, which will be finalised at the end of December, please let me know as soon as possible and I will send you a copy in confidence.

Later in the year we plan to publish further evidence of continuing torture in India including reports on torture in West Bengal, Punjab, and the specific problems faced by women victims of torture.
The public messages that we believe should be conveyed are: That torture should not be condoned. It is endemic across India and is closely linked to discrimination that the government must initiate institutional reforms as a means of tackling torture.

In addition we have identified the following campaign aims: Putting torture on the political and social agenda in India - to use a range of materials to educate political decision-makers about steps that can be taken to end torture; to use a range of materials to encourage members of the public to acknowledge the endemic nature of torture in society and its link to discrimination within society; to use a range of materials to encourage members of the public to question the current acceptance of torture; raising awareness internationally that torture by police and security forces continues to be endemic in India; we will do this by pointing out to foreign governments that there are practical steps that can be taken to end torture in India and that many of them could play a role in encouraging this, particularly as many are involved in training programs etc for police and security forces.

Promoting the idea of police reform and legislative reforms as a means of preventing torture referring to several existing but unimplemented recommendations for police and legislative reform putting pressure on the Government of India to review domestic legislation in preparation for ratification of Convention Against Torture (CAT) and to ratify CAT without reservations - to identify and educate a group of parliamentarians on the need for enabling legislation to ratify CAT, the need to ratify without reservations, and the importance of ratification; - get the Government of India to introduce enabling legislation in parliament; - to put the issue of ratification of CAT without reservations on the agenda of diplomatic exchanges with Indian officials; - to educate NGOs and members of civil society about what it means to ratify CAT and the importance of ratification without reservations.

We would welcome your comments on these aims and suggestions of how to realise them. We will try to find ways of addressing at least some of the ideas you might have. In particular I think the following areas are obvious areas of interaction, although there may be more that you can suggest.
If you would like support for initiatives regarding torture, let us know and we can look at ways of providing support and collaboration. If you are planning meetings or other activities, which address the issue of torture, you can let us know and if appropriate we can provide background information on international standards, torture as a global phenomenon, etc. If you have ideas for lobbying government and politicians about torture, we can share that information with others in India and perhaps match local pressure with international pressure. If you come across cases of torture that you can send us, please do so and we can try and highlight them internationally.

-Emma Blower

Home | Index