UNITED AGAINST TORTURE COALITION
27 June 2015
Not alone, never forgotten
Activists all over the world took to the streets to demand justice for torture survivors on International Day for Victims of Torture. In the Philippines, the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC) conducted its 9th BRAT! or Basta! Run Against Torture with more than 700 runners from government agencies, civil society groups and human rights organizations.
BRAT! was the brainchild of running priest and activist, Fr. Robert Reyes in 2002. It served as the launching pad of the UATC’s national campaign against torture. The objective then to make public the condemnation of torture in the context of the war against terror, prevent the use of torture through the ratification of the OPCAT – which the government subsequently signed August of 2008, and to pass an anti-torture law which we achieved in 2009.
“Looking back at our efforts all these years in declaring torture as a human rights violation, in criminalizing torture, for protecting citizens from torture and rehabilitation of victims – we truly have come a long way in influencing Congress and our legal system towards this end. But, then again, looking at the number of torture cases and the number of people tortured by government – the results of all our work in stopping torture in reality have been overshadowed by the continued use of this abhorrent act. More than a decade after the first BRAT and five years after the passage of the law, no perpetrator has been brought to justice”, explained Ellecer Carlos, UATC spokesperson.
“We did not expect a dramatic drop in cases of torture at the start of the Aquino administration but we wanted to see a steady trend of declining cases of government agents torturing citizens under their custody, pointing towards a clear and unmistakable progress towards eradication of torture. This is our last run under the Aquino presidency, and this is a run of disappointment – for the missed opportunity in taking a giant step in stomping out torture in the Philippines in the last five years” added Carlos.
“On the last year of the Aquino presidency, we urge the President to use his remaining months to instill upon all levels of government that torture is a human rights violation and a crime punishable by law. No one should intentionally be subjected to severe pain and suffering when in the custody of any government agent or under their instructions. Perpetration of torture must not be tolerated by anyone in government and perpetrators must be punished”, Carlos pointed out.
“UATC is emphasizing five calls for this year’s BRAT! – ending impunity and ensuring accountability, rehabilitation and remedies must be in place; maintaining that nothing justifies torture; making sure that all safeguards work; promoting solidarity and cooperation among stakeholders; and, last but not least committing to full prevention of torture,” Carlos explained.
In spite of strong provisions enshrined in the Philippine Constitution prohibiting the use of torture, its criminalization as provided for by Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law of 2009, and the Philippines having been a state party to the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) since 1987, torture remains widely used and accepted today.
“The concept of the right to be free from torture eludes the general public and disappointingly, government representatives and state security forces as well. Evident of this situation is the now infamous ‘’wheel of torture” found in an alleged ‘torture chamber’ in a police station in Biñan, Laguna. Aside from extracting information from suspects detained at the police station, the police allegedly used torture to entertain themselves when they are drinking or when they are drunk,” said Carlos.
The UATC believes that in order to see the decline of the practice of torture in the country, it is important that all members of society become informed of this right that is inherent to all individuals.
“All places where people are deprived of their liberty, no matter how big or small, near or far, must be placed under the lens of scrutiny to finally stop this inhumane practice. ‘Krimen ang torture’ – this is our battle cry. The ratification of OPCAT, passage of the law or the efforts towards the enactment of a National Committee on the Prevention of Torture are all positive changes towards ending torture but without breaking the chain of impunity or holding perpetrators to account, torture will still prevail,” reiterated Carlos.
The UATC will focus on addressing the need to implement RA 9745 in its fullest extent centering on accountability and rehabilitation as the important aspects of the law that need focus, the adoption of a National Committee for the Prevention of Torture in the country to prevent acts of torture in places of where persons are deprived of their liberty, and the need for solidarity and cooperation from all stakeholders in the fight against torture to finally put an end to the use of this abhorrent act.
This year’s BRAT! enjoined government agencies and members of the government security sector tasked in the implementation and the promotion of the Anti-Torture Law into a symbolic commitment setting led by torture victim survivors from different presidential eras to foster cooperation and solidarity in ensuring that the Philippines and the world see an end to the use of torture.
The United Against Torture Coalition Philippines (UATC) is a coalition of more than 30 human rights, women’s rights, children rights, political and grassroots organizations working towards ending the use of torture in the Philippines. The Steering Committee Members of the UATC are Amnesty International Philippines (AIPH), Balay Rehabilitation Center (BALAY), Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND), Medical Action Group (MAG), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP).
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