//CHRO statement on the International Day in Support of Torture Victims 26 June 2006

CHRO statement on the International Day in Support of Torture Victims 26 June 2006

A Statement by the Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, Kerala on the International Day in Support of Torture Victims and Survivors, 26, June 2006

 International Day in Support of Torture Victims and Survivors

Artwork by Octavio Roth

According to National Human Rights Commission's statisitcs, every day about 4 persons die in custody in India.  Its reports say that, there were a total of 54 custodial deaths in Kerala during 2002-2003, of which 4 were in police custody and 50 in judicial custody. The custodial death of Udayakumar on September 27, 2005 in the capital was not an isolated incident. The youth, who died while in custody of Fort police, was not involved in any crime. Udayakumar, a 28- year old youth who had been picked up by the police from the Sreekanteswaram Park, in "suspicious circumstances", was being tortured to death within a few hours.

In Kerala, The infamous killing of Engineering College student, Rajan, at Kakkayam police camp in Kerala in 1976 reverberated to bring down the first government headed by Congress leader K. Karunakaran in 1977. If one takes a cue out of the hue and cry on Rajan’s case, Kerala should have been free from custodial killings. However, custodial killings became rampant in Kerala throughout the last three decades of the post-emergency period during the dispensations of both the CPI (M) and Congress-led governments.

Dr. Balaraman (Former Member of Kerala State Human Rights Commission)  says that "Torture against women and children and atrocities against Dalits are also quite common in Kerala. Visit to Jails reveal that more than 2/3 of the prisoners are Under Trials in Kerala, as in the case of Tihar Jail where Mrs. Kiran Bedi has exposed that similar situations prevail". 

He further add "I had the rare privilege of visiting police stations and inspect the records including the General Diary, the Arrest Memo Register, the Register of Arrestees, the Prisoners Search Register, c Bail Bond Book, F.I.R. Index Register, Inspection Register for noting , injuries, injuries on the body of the arrested persons, Interrogation Register and Sentry Relief Book. Instances of tampering of the records, keeping the arrested persons in lock-up without even under garments etc., have been brought to the notice of the Hon 'ble Supreme Court."  (Niyama Sameeksha, 18, 07,2003 )

The evil axis between some police officers and sangh parivar forces in Kerala is closely linked with "Communally or politically inspired torture" and  "Riots for supermacy" in jails. Recent killing of a CPI (M) convict in one of the central jails in Kerala, was carried out by a RSS convict proves the proximity  of Hindutva forces in Police forces and prison. In the pretext of "Terrorism" , some police officers misuse fake intelligence reports created  by such communal forces to torture minoriies. Such reports are widely circulated in the media as 'State Intelligence" warnings. In many cases, it appears in Sangh Parivar's official media, even before it publishes in other news papers. Some "Hindutva inspired scribes" closely collaborates with this vested interest to communalise the state.

On 24 March , 2006,  The Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, Kerala (CHRO)  conducted a public trial at  Sishak Sadan, (Chinta Valappu), Kozhikode  to assess the  human rights violations conducted by police after the two mysterious minor bomb blasts at Kozhikode K.S.R.T.C and Mofusil Bus stands on 3rd March 2006. The fact finding team recieved complaints of massive police atrocities unleashed in various parts of the region. Some part of the media played a destructive role by hyping it with the word "twin blasts" and as a Kerala version of 9/11. The media bias is an ample proof of Sangh's infiltration  to well known Malayalam and English News Papers including  Leftist nature like "The Hindu".  The media hype compelled police to  adopt a method to brand all those who belong to Muslim community as "terrorists" and they conducted massive raids in Muslim households which lead to extra judicial detention of youths. The petitioners  included victims of police brutalities, their relatives and  people deprived of medical  and legal facilities. So far, the police have failed to find the criminals behind this organised crime which has been orchestrated by antinationals to deface minorities. Interestingly, just before the blasts, sangh parivar actvists held processions against "Muslim Terrorism" in Sulthan Bathery and Kodungalloor. Such mysterious acts of Hindutva fascists have never been part of the police investigation.

Police and law enforcement agencies have been instrumental in much of the recent communally charged violence in Kerala. From May 2003,  137 under trial prisoners have been denied bail in a single case of the second Marad revenge killings of May, 2003.  All of these under trials are belongs to Muslim minority community. Out of 148 accused in this case,  2 are absconding and only 6  recieved bail.  And most of these prisoners were not even directly linked with the killings. Surprisingly, the hindutva factor in police forces prevented usual legal action against the accused of  2002 Marad killings, because the largest accused segment was belongs to organizations like RSS and BJP. Even the key accused peoples belongs to Sangh Parivar in 2002 marad killings recieved bail due to the bondage of hindutva forces and investigating team while 137 accused Muslim prisoners were denied bail for the past 3 years!

The chargesheets against the accused involved in Marad 2002 violence were filed only after the revenge killings of 2003. A total of 392 persons figured as accused in 102 cases registered in 2002, of whom many in more than one case. Among these accused, the party-wise affiliation are: 213 belonging to RSS/BJP; 78 CPI(M); 68 IUML; 06 of Indian National League (INL) ; and one of Congress. Eventually, the FIRs in all these 102 cases of Marad 2002 were filed on May 15. It was pay-back murder for the communal violence a year earlier in the village which had left five persons killed (three of them belonging to the minority community) So far, nearly 500 Muslim families either left their homes for refugee camps or compelled to dispose their properties in Marad.

Torture remains unaccounted for and not prosecuted. It leads to total anarchy and the rule of vandalism and lawlessness. When police become a party to such violence, it becomes a state-sponsored crime against the people. Therefore, the fight against communalism and caste should start with the fight against torture.

Of the 511 sections in the Indian penal code, not a single provision exists to punish a law enforcing officer for engaging in custodial torture. Custodial torture is not yet a crime in India in spite of the fact that custodial torture is rampant. Most often it is the poor and the underprivileged, who comprise about 70 percent of population, who are subjected to torture. The government though continues to deny that torture is rampant in India and that there are no effective remedies available in the country to address this issue.

Justice Krishna Iyer set a shining examp
le in providing relief to prisoners who lacked legal defense. When, as Supreme Court Judge, he visited a jail in Kerala, to find a 71 year old prisoner who had been arrested repeatedly for house breaking, he passed an order under section 109 of the CrPC that all prisoners in Kerala on house breaking charges be released.

On 26 June 1987 the Convention against Torture came into force. It was an important step in the much-needed process of globalising human rights and acknowledging that torture, and all forms of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, are absolutely and universally illegal. In 1997, the United Nations General Assembly decided to mark this historic date and designated 26 June each year as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

 "This is a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable. This is an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable. It is long overdue that a day be dedicated to remembering and supporting the many victims and survivors of torture around the world."  Says UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

India not having ratified the Convention against Torture, its citizens do not have the opportunity to find recourse in remedies that are available under international law. Indian practices with respect to torture do not come under international scrutiny. Access to the UN Committee against Torture, and other mechanisms, is effectively denied people living in the largest democracy in the world. Since the country has also not signed the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, its citizens also do not have the right to make individual complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee. The victims are trapped with the local system, which in every aspect militates against their rights. Many victims conclude that a justice system accessible to the poor of the land does not exist at all.

The early ratification of the Convention against Torture is imperative if we wish to defend the human rights of torture victims. It is mandatory for any attempt at reforms in the police system as an effective mechanism for law enforcement and administration of justice.

Despite its many human rights groups, an effective and powerful campaign for the elimination of torture has yet to be developed in Kerala. If we fail to protect ourselves from torture, which is the basis for all other fundamental rights, we will not be able to vindicate any other rights.

While it recognises the need for institutional reform and changes in legal procedures, more significantly it points to imbalances in political power that shape inequities. The costs of injustice, in an increasingly inequitable society, are paid not only by the poor, who are deprived of rights in land, in access to resources and development opportunities, but a growing number who are being marginalised on account of differences of religion, ethnicity and gender. Their demand for social justice itself may have been muted because of systemic deprivation, political subordination or exclusion. But there are limits to such tolerance.

Citizens often turn to the court as the last resort against individual and collective injustice,. Can the courts meet these expectations? The experience of ordinary citizens and numerous legal aid organisations who support their cases, provide evidence of the fault lines in the delivery of justice and the political obstacles. It would be well to take these experiences into account in addressing access to criminal justice.

Legal procedures are generally found to be the first cause of citizens' alienation in the criminal justice system. At the very start, victims of alleged crimes are often reportedly discouraged by the police from filing a general diary or first information report. Complaints from Muslim Youths,  majority of  whom are waiting to get a Job in Gulf are generally silenced, in Hindutva's  interests of "Muslim Extremism", even though causing grievous hurt is a criminal offence. Delays in police investigations or falsely implicating innocent persons in litigation are well known ways to deflect justice.

So far, the response of the Ministry of Home Affairs to the general discontent with law enforcement has been woefully inadequate. Changes in laws, do not appear to have brought about any justifiable improvement.  Are we to assume that a change of clothes is all it takes to prevent the brutality which many face, when for example, they are arrested without warrant  or remand ? 

CHRO recommends that the Government of Kerala employs universally accepted criteria as part of LDF's periodic review mechanism to assess the human rights record in our police stations and prisons  to ensure that State of Kerala maintain the highest human rights standards, which should be one of the rationales for replacing this government. Being an ardent admirer of Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer, the new home minister of Kerala, Mr. Kodiyeri Balakrishan should do more especially in the area of torture prevention, in order that the dignity and lives of our people are respected and their rights protected.

 

Sd/- 

CHRO ( Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, Kerala)

 

Interesting Links 

National Human Rights Commission's Reports on Custodial Deaths
http://nhrc.nic.in/cdcases.htm

Custodial Deaths, Question and Answers from Parliament
http://164.100.24.208/lsq14/quest.asp?qref=1936

Association for the Prevention of Torture, Switzerland

http://www.apt.ch/

UN, International Day in Support of vicitims of Torture 

http://www.un.org/events/torture/ 

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