Monday, December 2, 2013

Torture - Asian and Global Perspectives

(I was recently asked to write a review for the latest issue of Torture - Asian and Global Perspectives, a magazine which is jointly published by the Asian Human Rights Commission and DIGNITY).

November 28, 2013

John Stewart Sloan

The latest issue of Torture - Asian and Global Perspectives covers the issue of military torture in the article, Psychodynamic - Military torture in UN peace operations. This article by Claus Kold raises the question of human rights abuses committed by soldiers attached to UN peace keeping operations. In the introduction to the article, Kold comments:

".....soldiers deployed by the UN end up torturing the civil population they are supposed to protect and help. While it may seem somewhat likely that soldiers in war operations end up torturing a much hated enemy, it seems profoundly at odds with the basic values and goals of a UN peace operation. So, why do some soldiers deployed in UN peace operations end up torturing?"

Kold examines the situation at considerable length and, amongst other things, concludes that:

".....human nature and alarmism are still part of military attitudes, even in peace operations. Traditional nationalism, ........ observations can only find few slight changes in military ideology; this probably means that the military identities are still at work in peace operations".

The article 'The right against torture is not justiciable in Asia' by Basil Fernando covers the theme of the contradiction between the international law obligation to ensure justiciability of the right against torture and the impossibility of the realisation of this due to the extreme defectiveness of the legal systems in Asia. The implications of the right for justiciability is analysed and the requirements of justiciability is contextually analysed in terms of specific countries, India, Pakistan, Thailand Nepal, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Singapore.

The crucial issue is: who is to investigate torture. There is popular disbelief about the police investigating torture committed by themselves, the same is true about military torture. Therefore, an independent agency which has the capacity to competently conduct criminal investigations is the sine qua non of investigations and justiciability. However, the stake holders resist the creation of such an independent investigating body. The governments bow down to this pressure. The stake holders justify their resistance on the basis that given the primitive nature of the criminal justice systems they operate in they cannot do without torture. If the government really wants to resolve this problem they need to reform and modernise the criminal justice systems where investigations into crime can be conducted without resorting to torture. Thus, the responsibility lies with the governments to ensure such reform. On the other hand the national institutions such as the human rights commissions by their very nature are incapable of conducting criminal investigations competently.

The Practice of Witch Hunting by Anjuman Ara Begum reveals the violence perpetrated against women accused of practicing witchcraft in India. The paper reveals that:

Offences related to witch hunting have been reported from various states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa. Media sources have revealed that 2,556 women have been branded as witches and killed in India between 1987 and 20032. In the state of Bihar alone, around 522 cases of witch hunting were registered between 1991 and 2003.

A ‘witch’ or its Assamese vocabulary ‘daini’ in Assam is used to identify a male or female is alleged to have magical powers that it used to bring evil to the community. ‘Witches’ are in most cases women who are alleged to use their evil powers to harm others. In fact, however, many of those accused of witchcraft are simply vulnerable women and children, the elderly or the mentally ill, and are sometime the victims of an accuser’s personal grudge. In many cases they are killed with impunity. Despite several voices against it practice the culture is rampant and is quite common among the communities Rabha, Hajong, Mishing, Bodo, Adivasi etc in the state of Assam. It has been reported that 2,556 women were designated as witches and killed in India between 1987 and 2003.Witch hunting is mostly committed by private individuals or non-state actors and is an abuse of right to life.

The latest issue of ‘TORTURE: Asian and Global Perspectives’, published by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Danish Institute Again Torture (DIGNITY), is now available online at .


When Freedom Replaced ‘Patriotism’- by Nilantha Ilangamuwa - Page 2

‘I Never Justified Torture’- Col. Lawerence Wilkerson - Page 5

‘Capitalism, The Rule Of Law And Human Dignity’ - James Otteson -Page 10

‘Torture Criminalised, What Next? - Saber Hossain Chowdhury- Page 16

Reform Police To Benefit From Anti Torture Law - By Md. Ashrafuzzaman Page 74

World Poverty - By Michael Freeman - Page 79

Medieval Torture - By James Mcdonald - Page 57

Deteriorated System - Page 84
(Interview With A Human Rights Activist)

The Right Against Torture Is Not Justiciable In Asia - By Basil Fernando- Page 51
Paper: The Practice Of Witch Hunting - By Anjuman Ara Begum –Page Page 39

Arrow On The Doorpost – by Ron Jacob - Page 91
Comment, But No Comments – by Baseer Naweed - Page 94
Germinal – by Tisaranee Gunasekara - Page 98
The Correctionist- by Binoy Lampmark - Page 101

How dare we live? - by Karen Malpede - Page 104
Reflections on “Blue Is the Warmest Color” a film by Adellatif Kechiche

New books
The Nellie Massacre of 1983 – by Makiko Kimura – Page 109
The Slacker Torturer - by Ximena Ortiz – Page 111
The Story Of A Survivor (‘A Victim Of Liberian War’) - by Seidy Swaray - Page 119

ISSN 2304-134X ( PRINT) ISSN 2304 -1358 ( ONLINE)

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