Rights body expresses solidarity to torture survivors in Manipur, pushes for ratification of UNCAT

The CSCHR will also highlight the current practices of widespread prolonged and unnecessary confinement; curbing of liberty, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of people in the context of COVID-19 lockdown and mismanagement of quarantine centres across the state.

Expressing strong solidarity to the thousands of torture survivors who are reeling in various corners of Manipur on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and United Nations (CSCHR) on Friday said that it will write to the UN special rapporteur on the delay in ratification of the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (UNCAT) 1987.

June 26 is the day the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) entered into force in the year 1987 and the day is observed to highlight the sufferings of the victims of torture worldwide.

The Government of India signed UNCAT in 1997 and subsequently the Law Commission of India as well as the Supreme Court of India had recommended its ratification. The government, however, has not done so till date.

CSCHR convenor Phulindro Konsam, addressing the International Day in Imphal in support of the victims of torture, said CSCHR will be mounting pressure on the UN special rapporteur on the undue delay in the ratification of UNCAT.

Konsam said that CSCHR will also highlight the current practices of widespread prolonged and unnecessary confinement; curbing of liberty, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of people in the context of COVID-19 lockdown and mismanagement of quarantine centres across the state.

The Government of India has always accepted the recommendations from several countries to ratify UNCAT in all the three cycles of the Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR). The latest Mid-Term report of the Notional Human Rights Commission to UPR-11 submitted in May 2020 reiterates the government’s commitment to ratifying the same.

One of the stated reasons for the delay in ratification is the lack of concurrence of views of the various state governments - “Law and Order” as well as “Public Order” being a state subject under the Constitution of India.

The CSCHR had therefore petitioned the Manipur Human Rights Commission to ascertain the position of the Government of Manipur on the issue of ratification of UNCAT. And to recommend the Government of Manipur to take a firm stand on the urgent need to ratify the UNCAT and promptly communicate the same to the Union Home Ministry. Also, to recommend to the Government of India to ratify the UNCAT without any further delay.

The Commission has registered the petition and has asked the Special Secretary (Home), Government of Manipur to report on the steps taken by the State Government of Manipur regarding the ratification of the UNCAT on or before July, 13, 2020, Konsam added.

Human Rights Alert executive director Babloo Loitongbam said that the Union Home Ministry had circulated a draft of The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017 that recommended amendments to India’s domestic laws, making them compatible with international standards and enabling the ratification.

The central government hasn’t received a response yet from any states or Union territories after seeking their opinion on the Law Commission’s recommendation that India ratify the UN Convention against torture. Therefore, it is time to put promises into action as the states are yet to ratify it, said CSCHR.

A simple observation of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was attended by CSCHR co-convenor Joy Chingakham and other representatives from EEVFAM, HRA.

First Published:June 27, 2020, 8:52 a.m.