Torture is always wrong. This principle was established many years ago, and is enshrined in international law. Yet, in India, torture in state detention is common , involving a range of practices including shackling, beatings and the administration of electric shocks. Disadvantaged and marginalized groups including women, dalits, adivasis and suspected members of armed opposition groups are those most commonly abused.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the government has a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to human rights violations. Yet prosecutions for torture have been extremely rare.
PLEASE SIGN NAZIR's PETITION TO END TORTURE
Dear Prime Minister,
My name is Nazir Ahmad Sheikh and I write to seek your help to end torture in India. I write to urge you to ensure the speedy redrafting and passage of the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 in the monsoon session of Parliament.
I myself have experienced brutal torture by Indian security forces. In January, 1995, I was arrested by members of the Army’s 14th Dogra Regiment near my home in Handwara, Kashmir, and taken to an army camp at Kalam-Chakla. There, I was interrogated and tortured for 12 days. I was forced to walk barefoot on the snow for hours, and was beaten with sticks. I was then shifted to an interrogation centre in Langate for 10 days, where I was again forced to walk barefoot on the snow, and my feet were burnt with a stove. As a result of the torture, both my feet, and the fingers of my left hand, had to be amputated.
To date, India lacks a specific domestic law to address cases of torture. The Prevention of Torture Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on 6 May 2010 and is pending before the Rajya Sabha, falls short of the requirements of the UN Convention against Torture in several respects.
For example, the Bill defines torture more narrowly than the Convention in terms of pain or suffering caused, and limits torture to cases where pain is inflicted to obtain information or a confession. The Bill also makes torture punishable only if it involves discrimination. The Bill imposes an artificial six-month deadline for making complaints about torture. It also makes prosecution of law enforcement officials for torture conditional on the State’s assent, effectively giving them virtual immunity.
A Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha has recommended several significant amendments to the Bill, which address some of its shortcomings. I urge you to take all steps necessary to:
- Reintroduce the Prevention of Torture Bill in both houses of Parliament in the upcoming monsoon session, as drafted by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee on the Prevention of Torture Bill
- Debate the Bill in Parliament in an open, thorough and robust manner and pass it into law, taking into account India’s responsibilities as a signatory to the Convention against Torture
- Ratify the Convention against Torture
Torture is a grave violation of human rights. I urge you to help end it forever.
Nazir Ahmad Sheikh