Ending torture

A report of the world’s premier human rights organisation, Amnesty International, on torture shows how rampant it is as an instrument of state oppression all over the world.

Most countries have committed themselves to eradicating it  but it is perhaps the most dishonoured and violated official promise.

The UN Convention Against Torture of 1984 was considered to be a historic document which guaranteed the right of human beings to the safety and  security of their body and mind and bound governments to respect them. The report, Torture: 30 Years of Broken Promises, is a review of the world’s record in that respect and it shows that no country has an honourable record.

The convention has been signed and ratified by 155 countries but there is not much of a difference between those who have signed and others who have not.

Torture is any assault on body or mind and a variety of techniques are employed by the police and security agencies to extract confessions and punish people. It is routine and systematic in many countries and because of its secretive nature the prevalence is much more than what is generally known.

The victims are usually criminals, security suspects, political rivals and others. Asia fares worse than other parts of the world and China and North Korea have the worst record. India also has a poor record. It has not yet ratified the convention, though it has signed it.

One disquieting information in the report is that many people in India and China – in fact about 75 per cent of the respondents in India – believe that torture is sometimes necessary. This  gives social sanction to official violation of human  and legal rights of citizens and makes it all the more difficult to root out the practice.

Amnesty and other human rights bodies have campaigned  against torture and the report is part of the campaign. It  has noted that there is some progress in some countries which have taken their obligations under the convention seriously.

Criminalisation of torture by law, opening of detention centres to independent monitors and  mandatory video recording  of interrogations have helped to reduce torture in these countries.

Torture is inhuman and dehumanising and it is unrealistic to expect an early end to it. But the campaign needs wide support and awareness should be created that torture of a criminal is as bad and illegal as the crime he or she may have committed.

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