//National project on preventing torture gets underway

National project on preventing torture gets underway

Express News Service

Lucknow, June 26: THE UP network of the National Project on Preventing Torture in India was inaugurated on Monday, on the occasion of the ‘UN Day in Support of Torture Victims’. The Project, which is a joint collaboration of the European Union, Germany-based Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Indian Human Rights organisation, People’s Watch – Tamil Nadu (PWTN), was started in January 2006 and would cover 10 Indian states. Five districts from each state would be selected initially for implementing the project.

‘‘It is the poor and the depressed sections of the society that are the main victims of torture at the hands of state agencies,’’ pointed out Henri Titfanhagne, project director and the executive director of the PWTN.

He was in town to inaugurate the UP chapter of the project. ‘‘Since, even the courts and Human Rights Commission are unable to ensure speedy justice for torture victims, the main aim is to create a grassroots network of activists, lawyers, doctors, teachers, along with civil society oganisations. This would enable the formation of a movement for eradicating torture’’, he said.The first step would be to collect and compile information on every case of torture or human rights violation in the 50 districts nationwide where the project would be implemented. This information would be used in case the government declared its inability to collect evidence. These cases would be pursued vigourously so that justice for victims could be ensured. Another aim would be to create awareness among the people about human rights violations, specifically torture. Grassroot workers would give feedback to the professionals, like psychologists and lawyers, based on their experiences in interceding on behalf of victims.

The districs selected in UP are Varanasi, Allahabad, Mirzapur, Jaunpur and Sonbhadra. Mohammad Moosa, who was with PWTN, will be the project coordinator in UP. A three-year time frame has been approved for the execution of the project, after which, if the results are encouraging, acording to Mohammad Moosa it may be extended to other districts.

Cops beware, big brother is watching!

HT Correspondent, Lucknow, June 26

AN ACTION group formed under the European Union supported national project on preventing torture in India has decided to closely monitor police torture cases in Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi, Mirzapur and Sonebhadra from now on.

“We will monitor every single case of police torture in these five districts and report them to the National and State Commission of Human Rights, Mahila Ayog, SC/ST Commission, UN,” said Lenin, state director of the European Union supported National Project on ‘Preventing Torture in India’, at a seminar organised here on Monday. The EU project seeks to raise public awareness and make the state accountable for every case of police brutality/torture.

At the seminar attended by retired judges, lawyers, social activists, NGO representatives among others, it was felt that though the Union Government had signed the UN convention against torture, it was still to ratify it.

“This was among the main reasons for the State not being concerned about its responsibility to put an end to increasing cases of torture,” Lenin said.

Participants at the seminar also felt the need to amend the archaic Police Act of 1861.

“Besides, people should also realise the need to question as and when they come across cases of police torture,” the speakers felt.

Justice (retd) Achal Bihari Srivastava shared his experiences in UP and said that particularly eastern UP was worst when it came to torture cases.

Lenin, who is also a senior office-bearer of the People’s Vigilance Commission on Human Rights, said that the superintendent of police never visited Mirzapur’s Damhi village despite scores of torture related incidents.

“When we built pressure, the SP’s office received 2.5 lakh applications. He was then forced to visit the village. This is not an isolated incident,” Lenin added.

An advisory board was also formed on the occasion. It has been decided to organise workshops to sensitise people in this regard. “We are going to request the Chief Justice of High Court to nominate people. Besides, people from the police set up, media etc too are going to be included in it,” he said.

Prominent among those who attended the workshop were Justice (retd) KN Sharma, Azmal Khan, advocate, Maheshanand Bhai, a gram samaj samiti member from Sonebhadra, Henri, national director of the EU project against torture, former LU vice-chancellor Prof RR Verma, Neelam Chaturvedi, coordinator, Mahila Manch. KK Rai, conducted the workshop.