"Testimonial campaign contribute to eliminate impunity for perpetrators of torture in India"
"You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind"
Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) and National Alliance on Testimonial Therapy (NATT) in collaboration of Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT)[i] and European Union[ii] project is holding a two days national consultation i.e. 12th – 13th July, 2012 in New Delhi on "Testimonial campaign contribute to eliminate impunity for perpetrators of torture in India". 12th July, 2012 at Magnolia hall, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi and on 13th July, 2012 at Indian Social Institute, 10, Institutional Area, Lodi Road, New Delhi.
12th July, 2012
PVCHR welcomed and honoured the Chief Guest Hon'ble Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson National Human Rights Commission, Guest of Honour: Mr. Pavel Svitil, Chargé d'affaires, Delegation of the European Union to India and chair of inauguration session, Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Consultant Editor-Economic and Political Weekly (EPW). Mr. Sankar Sen, Ex- Director General, National Human Rights Commission, Dr D Roy Laifungbam, Chairperson, Human to Humane Transcultural Centre for Torture Victims (H2H) and Mr. Mathews Philip, Executive Director SICHREM with the traditional silk shawl.
Program started with the welcome speech and key note address by Lenin Raghuvanshi, Secretary General PVCHR.[iii] He welcomed the chief guest, guest of honor, key speaker and all delegates from Manipur, Assam, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jammu & Kashmir, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and New Delhi etc.
He said, "We are organising National Consultation "Testimonial Campaign contributes to eliminates impunity for perpetrator of Torture in India" Challenging the impunity through breaking the silence is based on eliminating the fear, phobia, hopelessness and fragmentation of the survivors in empathetic safe and secure environment. Survivor's psycho – social and legally supported through Testimonial Therapy converted into human rights defender/barefoot worker based on concept of justice, democracy, non – violence and human dignity. We are aware that the fear and phobia due to torture and organized violence (TOV) is imparting culture of silence and testimonial therapy as a psycho -legal support to the survivor is breaking silence against impunity."
Nageshwar Patnaik, Vice –President PVCHR honoured Mohammad Aamir Khan with the Jan Mitra Award with 60000/- Rs (Sixty thousand Rupees only) as a financial support for his commitment and conviction based on rule of law, democracy and non-violence for protection of human life with dignity of individual.[iv] Mohammad Aamir Khan, who was released in January 2012 after 14 years of incarceration and was named as falsely implicated in 20 low-intensity bomb blasts which took place between December 1996 and October 1997 in Delhi, Rohtak, Sonepat and Ghaziabad.[v]
Hon'ble Justice K.G Balakrishnan, Chairperson NHRC as a chief guest addressed the conference "Parliament needs to pass the Bill urgently so that the culture of extracting information through torture is made illegal and the guilty are punished by law."
"Torture is a serious problem for India. Basic human rights are violated when torture is inflicted. It is not just physical pain, but mental which traumatises the individual and is an assault on his right to life," he said. India has also not ratified the UN convention against torture which asks states to declare torturing a criminal offence under its jurisdiction, he noted.
A multi-pronged approach from the training and education of security forces to a fair and impartial judicial system is required," said Balakrishnan. He also added 'Silence' is the biggest promoter of impunity. A well – informed, well guided public can make a big change in the existing scenario.
Dr. Lenin's organization is doing a tremendous task by holding testimonial ceremonies where-in testimonials are read out and survivors are facilitated. It boosts up the moral and confidence among them. This creates and atmosphere of understanding among the survivors of different kind of violence and between different communities. They keep them following up as per UN standards, until everything becomes normal. We need several such organizations to testimonial campaign to its logical end. Use of the all the possible means to raise the voice for justice, especially Information Technology has to be utilized to amplify the unheard voice of people.[vi]
Mr. Sankar Sen, former Director General of NHRC, said, "Stringent punishment for perpetrators of torture and adequate compensation for the victim must be done to check this growing culture of impunity,"
The need to give proper training to the police and sensitizing them about the rights of persons lodged in jail is urgent, he said adding investigating the case needs to be paramount which sadly is not the case. "Police devotes very less time in investigating the cases," he added.
Compensation and rehabilitation are also a neglected part in our justice system which must be high on the priority list of the government and security forces, Sen said.
Dr D Roy Laifungbam,[vii] Chairperson, Human to Humane Transcultural Centre for Torture Victims (H2H) said, "Torture survivors are recluses socially, and also tend to get neglectful, medically as a manifestation of the syndrome of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Convincing them to give their 'testimonies' demand that practitioners bring to light both the therapeutic significance as well as the legal necessities. They have to be convinced on how an effective mechanism to promptly investigate any allegation of torture demands them to speak up about the incident.
Giving testimonies also reveals why a survivor of torture deserves full rehabilitation to rebuild their life. 'Rehabilitation' has been this year's focus on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. It is every torture survivor's right and the Government should be accountable to make compensation an enforceable right.
Nowadays, many torture survivors have come to terms with their trauma through this method of intervention as they listen to and realize that they are not alone to have gone through this man made tragedy. An optimistic ground can also be created to make provisions for the survivors to speak up and in the long run raise a voice in unison against the perpetrators who revels in impunity. The message has to be loud and clear so as to break the silence against impunity. Every citizen of democratic and free India, as a fundamental right, seeks the immediate ratification of the Convention against Torture without any reservations and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention. India signed the treaty in 1997 without any reservation or declaration. It is a matter of national disgrace that 15 years since, the government has failed to adopt an appropriate Torture Prevention Bill that is fully compliant with the provisions of the UN treaty and international human rights law. Until accountable legislative and policy measures are adopted and enforced, victims of serious human rights violations have no full recourse towards redress for their sufferings in the continuing climate of impunity that prevails in India.
Testimonies contribute substantially towards a positive change but for the victims, accountability and justice, is a human right. But impunity also draws a much larger canvas, one that stretches the horizons of human rights issues. Impunity is a severe rot in the very roots of democracy, governance and the rule of law.
Impunity cannot exist without legal sanction and political patronage. The concept and development of the 'security sector' in India needs a very careful and holistic appraisal if we are to uproot impunity. The term is associated with different and often competing definitions, which include either a narrow or a broad set of actors. In the first instance, 'security sector' refers to only state organisation authorised to use force. In the broader definition, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) suggested in 2002 a definition which also includes justice and law enforcement institutions, civil management oversight bodies, non-statutory security forces and civil society groups.
Mr. Mathews Philip, Executive Director SICHREM[viii] said, "Probably the most important and effective step to combat this evil would be to increase transparency within the system where records, police stations and detention centres are open to scrutiny by members of the media, non-governmental organizations and other watch organizations. There must be a clear chain of command in the ranks of the police and each official must know that they would be held personally responsible for the treatment of the detainees under their supervision. Preventing any forms of incommunicado detention and improving detaining conditions must also be carried out. Female officers must be present when women are detained. Awareness programmes must be carried out to make known to officials that any form of torture or ill-treatment would not be tolerated and that matters relating to these would be strictly investigated. Legislation must be strengthened allowing for effective adjudicating and investigating bodies to look into matters of alleged torture and the punishments reserved for convicted individuals should be made stricter."
Addressing the meeting, Guest of Honour Mr. Pavel Svitil, Chargé d'affaires, European Union Delegation to India emphasized that the prevention and eradication of all forms of torture and ill-treatment worldwide represents one of the main objectives of the EU human rights policy. The EU Guidelines give the EU a wide range of instruments to raise the issue of torture and to reach EU objectives, most notably: through political dialogue, diplomatic representations and financial assistance under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. "We are hence raising the issue of torture systematically with our partner countries, and no individual country or group of countries is left out" he added Over the last 5 years, according to Mr. Svitil, an average of € 12 million (Rs. 85 crore) per year had been allocated, globally, by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights to funding anti-torture projects. Between 2007-10, the EIDHR funded, indicatively, 80 projects around the world in the field of torture prevention and victim rehabilitation. For 2011-2013, the EIDHR allocated almost € 38 million (Rs. 270 crore) to support civil society organisations around the world to implement anti- torture actions (i. e. € 12.5 million, Rs. 88 crores per year).
In India, Mr Svitil informed the meeting, the EU provides support to NGOs for actions related to prevention of torture and rehabilitation of torture victims. Since 2006, it has committed more than € 2.6 million. (Rs.19 crore) to support a number of projects that have focused on prevention of torture through awareness-raising and advocacy; improving health and dignity of torture victims; and reducing the incidence of torture by police among certain communities.[ix]
Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Consultant Editor-Economic and Political Weekly while concluding the session pointed towards the three difficulties that face:
First problem, level of passage of prevention of torture bill itself which is actually stucked and not moving anywhere. It is before now the cabinet and cabinet has to take decision, whether modified and strengthen act which is what we asking for whether it will passed or won't be because there is lot of pressure coming from security apparatus, Home Ministry and Ministry of defence and other who believe any strengthening of act will impinge on India ability to handle conflict situation, insurgency and terrorism etc.
The other problem we faces in the light of supreme court in Pathribal judgment redefined "good faith" to mean that every security personnel would be presumed to be working in good faith and this can only be dislodged if there is cogent and cognisable evidence. This is catch 22 situation because even if there is prima facie evidence against security personnel without sanction from the government no prosecution can be effected. Reality is that government is chary of giving sanction.
Third Problem Societal level which Dr. Sanker Sen pointed out which is very important there is sanction and there is support from within the society for torture to take place. I will take 3 are challenges are force before us:
Rehabilitation and Justice for survivor of torture is not only compensation. In my view it is more important things in term of justice and the together with justice rehabilitation of victim what Dr. Roy & Mathews Philip pointed towards testimonial, said Dr Roy, would be unfair unless we can ensure their rehabilitation. In absence of it testimonials could reinforce trauma. It is very important in term of rehabilitation there are problem. It draw attention towards the fact that testimonial from the victim unless we are able to guarantee & help mere testimonial will now survive. I think it is a very – very important point that you must take rehabilitation of survivor is very important. All of us work in the civil and democratic rights organizations. We come across innumerable of cases and we still and get confronted by people and group who suffered or whose life have being destroyed.
I would like to thanks the organizers of this conference with focus attention on something which is actually being neglected in this country for very – very long time and torture seem to have come spurt only become part of our consciousness. It is a high time we ended torture. Impunity where forces or officers feel that they are free.
Mr. John Dayal member of the National Integration Council (NIC) of India inaugurated Musahar documentary[x].
Mr. Musab Iqbal Chief Editor, Newzfirst chaired the first session Breaking of silence and amplifying the voice of survivors in the era of Information technology and the key speakers were Mustaq – Ul – Haq Ahmad Sikander, Independent Activist and Freelance Writer[xi] and Mr. Philip Mathew, Executive Director, SICHREM, Mr. Goldy George, Dalit Rights Activist.
The second session Discussion on Conflict Prone Area was chaired by Mr. K. S Subramanian the key speaker Montu Ahanthem Secretary Wide Angle, Mr. Tarun Kanti Bose, Independent journalist[xii], Prasenjit Biswas, Member Barak Human Rights Protection Committee, Shipra Devi, Managing Trustee, Nivedita Foundation and Mr. Roop Sen, Sanjog, Mr. Manoj Jena, Chairperson, Human Rights Front.
After Lunch Ms. Uma Chatterjee chaired the session where two member of management Committee Mr. Anup Kumar Srivastava shared about PVCHR - EU "Reducing Police Torture against Muslims at the Grass – root level by engaging and strengthening Human Rights Institutions in India.
Ms. Shirin Shabana Khan shared about PVCHR RCT project "promoting psycho – legal framework to reduce Torture and Organized Violence in India.
In the last session to know about Impact of testimonial therapy in the life of suvivors five survivors Harinath, Bhonu, Ram Kripal, Phool Chand, Kamlesh shared the changes in the life after being psychologically supported through testimonial therapy. Mohd. Aamir Khan also shared his self-suffering and said "Implementation of our laws needs to be strict and the trial must be expedited". The delegates after hearing the self-suffering hold tears in their eyes.
On 13th July, 2012
Mr. Nageshwar Patnaik, Vice President PVCHR chaired the session Future planning for making testimonial movement in India: Consolidation of National Alliance on Testimonial Therapy in India and key speaker were Mr. Philip Mathew, Executive Director, SICHREM, Ms. Uma Chatterjee, Director, Sanjog, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Executive Director, PVCHR, Prasenjit Biswas, Member Barak Human Rights Protection Committee, Mr. Santosh and Dr. Syed Mahar - Ul - Hasan, Director/General Secretary, United Reformers Organization Bhopal[xiii]
The future planning as follows:
1) A strong group of well trained human rights defenders from marginalized Communities documenting cases of torture and other forms of human rights violations;
2) Civil society groups engage the elected representatives in pre legislative right based debate from the panchayat level on the 'State of marginalized community';
3) Human rights institutions effectively intervene on the complaints of human rights violation by the state and non state actors and provide directions for delivery of justice, adequate compensation and rehabilitation ;
4) Effective media engagement results in establishment of a strong civil society network that challenges the present development paradigm and social discrimination which are the main cause of massive human rights violation.
5) Model anti Torture and organized violence Village creation and Survivors empowered to be Defenders
Mr. Goldy George highlighted to bring the politics of survivors for strengthening the local processes against torture and organized violence. He emphasized on breaking of silence and resilience of survivors through inculcating empowerment processes. After in depth deliberation we chalked out follows value for NATT:
· To promote & strengthen "Politics of survivor" through psychosocial support to survivors & amplify the voice of voiceless.
· To promote & strengthen the diverse independent processes against torture and organized violence based on rule of law, justice, democracy and non – violence.
· NATT is platform for sharing and learining and solidarity for survivors movement against TOV, not for funding.
Core team of NATT formed:
SICHREM from Karnataka, PVCHR from Uttar Pradesh, BHRPC from Assam, DASHRA from Bihar, Mr. Goldy George from Chattisgarh, Mustaq Ahmad Sikander from Jammu & Kashmir, Ms. Afsana Sayed from Jammu & Kashmir and Wide Angle from Manipur.
The program ended with vote of thanks given by MS. Shruti Nagvanshi, Managing Trustee, PVCHR/JMN
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