Monday, June 18, 2012

Torture: evil practice must end

                                           SR on Torture Mr. Manfred Nowak with Author


No other human acts can be so degrading as the act of torture; no other human instincts can be as repulsive and repugnant as idea of torturing someone, whosoever the culprit, government or a person. Stigma on the modern civilization, the practice of torture is widely prevalent among modern states up to the extent, where it seems, torture has been legalized. Torture dehumanizes a person to the level where ones faith is shaken in society. In addition, the effect of torture percolates, through the survivor of torture, in deep fabric of society, affecting people and communities.

 A torture victim may deal the impact of torture in various ways; immediate impact of torture may benumbs the sense of victims, deeply affecting physical and psychological layers of the personality. In most cases, torture victims suffer from, to certain degree, psychological or physical harm. Exposure to extreme traumatic experiences not only affects the victims but also has profound impact on their family, the community, and the nation. Torture may alter personal feeling, beliefs, and judgment. However the cumulative effects of torture extend to the whole society, impacting generations to come. Various studies have proved that torture has lasting impact of fear, feeling of helplessness, loss of control, and anxiety.

Apart from the visible wounds, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can emerge after to a traumatic events. The defining characteristic of a traumatic event is its capacity to provoke a feeling of fear, horror, and helplessness in response to a threat of injury or death. Whether, physical torture or mild form of psychological torture, equally leave the lasting impact on the wellbeing on the torture victim. The torture victim is in essence de-humanized, striped of their dignity and self worth. This de-humanization manifests into various forms such as sexual humiliation, desecration (especially religion), and feral treatment (such as forcing victim to act as animal).

Torture is not restricted to an isolated event, as conditions of detention and repeated acts of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment can meet the threshold of torture as outlined in the United Nations Convention against Torture (1984). This  include forced starvation, prolonged solitary confinement, repeated denial of basic medical health care, and custodial violence such as rape or being stripped naked.

In Indian context, torture in police custody is widely prevalent; include beating, use of third degree methods, verbal abuse and humiliation in public.  Alarming rate of torture cases has shaken the Indian civil society. Numerous cases of torture have been documented and highlighted by the People Vigilance Commission on Human Rights (PVCHR). Nonetheless, PVCHR has taken the vital steps to combat the menace of torture particularly 'police-torture'. Remarkably, PVCHR, not only doing advocacy against police torture, but also, has lead 'anti-torture initiatives and campaigned on torture free society.

In its unique endeavor to provide a heeling hand to torture survivor, PVCHR is involved in a pilot project 'to improve psychological wellbeing among survivors of torture in India (Torture 2009 vol.19). Last but not the least; PHCVR has convened a National Consultation on (12-13 July 2012, New Delhi) 'Testimonial campaign which contributes to eliminate impunity for perpetrators of torture in India.' This is an organized effort of PVCHR to propagate the importance of testimonial therapy as a psycho legal support to the victims of torture.

However, high number of recorded cases of torture seeks more attention and consistent vigilance from local Civil Society. Furthermore, commitment to protect dignity of ordinary person must be a topmost priority of government. There is no justification, legal or moral, can be made to support the practice of torture.


Assistance Association for Political Prisoner (Burma) doc. 

Amit Singh
Institute of Human Rights and Peace, Mahidol University

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