A Joint Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission and the Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-Treatment
A group of 26 human rights defenders and organisations, today concluded a five-day regional conclave and formed a unique regional initiative – The Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-treatment (AAAT). The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT), Denmark took the lead to organise the foundational meeting of the AAAT, first of its kind in Asia. The meeting was held from 15 to 19 August at the AHRC’s office in Hong Kong.
Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Burma, Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong were represented in the meeting.
Human rights defenders and jurists discussed deep-rooted problems that result in the widespread use of torture with impunity in Asia in the meeting. The participants shared experiences on what leads to the use of torture in Asian countries and reasserted that there is a close nexus between torture and corruption, and above all, the failure of justice institutions in the region to address this. The participants also shared their anguish about the existing nature of policing in Asia that requires a thorough overhauling to meet the human rights norms expected of state agencies of today.
The participants asserted that there is an urgent requirement for a reorientation within the global human rights movement from norms education to the understanding of the functioning of domestic legal frameworks, and with that knowledge, to engage with the domestic mechanisms to improve their functioning, or in some jurisdictions where justice institutions do not exist, to encourage building them. The participants expect that international bodies like the United Nations and regional groupings like the European Union would make this approach as a reoriented priority of engagement with Asian states.
The participants emphasised that pursuing accountability will remain an illusion without justice reforms. Impossibility of making complaints; lack of witness protection frameworks; absence of training and equipments for scientific investigation of cases; inefficient prosecutions; insensitive and sometimes corrupt or generally non-independent judges; and extensive delays in adjudication that in some jurisdictions could last for decades; negates the basic perception of justice in most Asian states. The relative difficulty in dealing with detention centres like prisons and the inhuman practices perpetrated against detainees and convicts was also highlighted in the meeting. The resultant environment that clearly lacks a mandate of protecting, promoting and achieving the rule of law facilitates the endemic use of torture in Asia.
Drawing inspiration from the anti-slavery movement, the AAAT observed that today, modern facilities available, like in the communication technology for instance, must be used by the human rights movement, to document and disseminate information and to liberally use the developments in technologies of communication in their lobby for change. The AAAT also called for the global human rights movement to make fighting torture as one of the priority issues.
The AAAT resolved to hold regular meetings and to undertake active domestic and international work within the region to bring an end to the culture of torture with impunity in Asia.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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