KATHMANDU, Dec 12: Lawyers and activists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have called states in the region to ensure perpetrators are held accountable in line with international standards in order to end the widespread practice of torture and other ill treatment.
The call came at a regional conference on the investigation and prosecution of torture and other ill treatment in South Asia organized by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to mark the International Human Rights Day.
“Governments in South Asia have done very little to support the victims and survivors of torture and other ill treatment, or to ensure their rights to truth, justice and reparation,” an ICJ statement quoted ICJ's Asia Director Frederick Rawski as saying.
“Despite the persistence of the practice, governments have failed to follow their legal obligation to treat these crimes as serious human rights violation.”
Torture and other ill treatment are prevalent in South Asia, and are widespread and systematic in some countries, with perpetrators enjoying impunity for the crime.
ICJ said that states in the region continue to deny the pervasiveness of torture and use torture as a deliberate tool to control and punish dissidents. They have also failed to enact specific legislation to criminalize torture and where a special law exists, they have failed to implement it in good faith, ICJ said.
“Consequently, there have been few concerted efforts to hold perpetrators of torture and ill treatment accountable. All too often, perpetrators get away with only disciplinary action, and even when prosecutions happen, they do not result in conviction and commensurate penalties,” it said.
ICJ also said that suspects are often lower or middle-ranking public officials rather than their superiors, who are charged with lesser crimes than torture, such as assault, battery, coercion or abuse of office that carry relatively low punishments.