'Torture will persist under ER and PTA'

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 26 June 2001, 21:39 GMT]
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Ms Nienke Kramer, Associate Field Officer, UNHCR, Trincomalee.


Unless the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations are removed, torture would go on unabated in this island", said Mr. Kasinather Sivapalan, a Human Rights Activist speaking at the seminar by the Family Rehabilitation Centre to mark the United Nations' International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was observed in Trincomalee Tuesday. "The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1984 Convention Against Torture and other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment make it clear that international law bans torture and, yet throughout the world torture continues" said Ms Nienke Kramer, Associate Field Officer of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) delivering the keynote address on 'Together against Torture'.

She said: "The eradication /abolition of the practice of torture in the world was one of the major challenges taken up by the United Nations only a few years after its establishment. In order to ensure adequate protection for all persons against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, over the years the United Nations has adopted universally applicable standards. These standards were ultimately embodied in international declarations and conventions."

Attorney-at-Law Mr. Sivapalan, who addressed the seminar on 'Law and Practice of Human Rights' said: "I would say that one hundred percent cases filed in High Courts by the Attorney General solely depend on confessions to prove the accused guilt".

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Mr.K.Sivapalan, a Human right activist and an Attorney-at-Law speaking at the seminar. (Photo: TamilNet)
"Under the normal law of the country, a confession made by accused persons cannot be used against them. This basic human right was removed with the introduction of Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations proclaimed by the head of state. Clause 60 of the Emergency Regulations and Clause 18 of the PTA Act allow the Police to use confessions of the suspects against them. The intention is to punish the accused with his or her confession alone. Hence the PTA and ER compel armed forces and police to use torture as a method for obtaining confessions. Cases filed in courts in north eastern province against members of armed forces and police are being transferred to Colombo now. We must ask the authorities to allow such cases be heard in northeast courts", he stated.

"A Human Rights National Action Plan should be formulated to agitate for the removal of Prevention of Terrorism Act, Emergency Regulations and other laws identified as violating human rights and fundamental rights of citizens, Mr.Sivapalan proposed.

Dr.Gnanagunalan who treats torture victims in Trincomalee said in his address, "The FRCÌs responsibility is to rehabilitate torture victims physically and psychologically. But it is the bounden duty of the society to absorb rehabilitated torture victims into the mainstream society. It is a pity to say here that our society is ignoring the rehabilitated torture victims. They are treated by the society as outcastes. Torture victims find it very difficult to get admission for their children in schools. Principals in some schools fear that other students will fall into trouble if they (the Principals) admit torture victimsÌ children".

"Rehabilitated torture victims also find very difficult to rent outhouses. Owners of houses fear that they will be subjected to unnecessary harassment if they rent out houses to torture victims," according to Dr. Gnanagunalan.

Representatives of NGOs and students of leading schools in Trincomalee town attended the seminar.

 

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