AHRC welcomes news that anti-torture bill going to parliament and death penalty abolished
(Hong Kong, June 7, 2006) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Wednesday warmly welcomed news that a bill to criminalise torture would shortly go to the Philippines' parliament and called for it to be promptly made into law, while praising the abolition of the death penalty there.
"These are very significant steps in bringing the Philippines into line with its international obligations," Basil Fernando, executive director of the Hong Kong-based regional rights group, said.
"Many groups and human rights defenders in the Philippines and abroad have fought long and hard to get the death penalty abolished and the pending anti-torture bill passed into law," Fernando said.
"The parliament should follow up on its firm abolition of the death penalty by quickly passing the anti-torture bill, which the government must then ensure is implemented without further delay," he said.
"The criminalisation of torture is a matter of great urgency for uncounted numbers of victims and their families around the country," Fernando stressed.
On Wednesday Representative Satur Ocampo said that a committee under the Philippines' House of Representatives had approved the pending anti-torture bill to go before parliament.
"Ocampo was reported as saying that the bill is long overdue, and this is a sentiment very much shared by the AHRC and other human rights defenders in the Philippines and abroad," Fernando said.
The Philippines became a party to the UN Convention against Torture in 1986, but up to now has failed in its obligations to introduce domestic law and institutions in accordance with the treaty.
"This move to criminalise torture is especially important in view of the Philippines' election in May to the new UN Human Rights Council," Fernando noted.
"As the Philippines was elected to the council for only one year, if in that time it can take firm steps to eliminate the widespread torture and cruel and inhuman treatment practiced by law-enforcement authorities there then it will do much for its reelection chances," he added.
The AHRC has reported on numerous cases of torture in recent times, including the alleged brutal torture of 11 persons, including two minors, by security forces in the northern Benguet Province.
It earlier identified the government's persistent failure to criminalise torture as one of the main reasons that it should not be given a seat on the Human Rights Council.
It had also called for the abolition of the death penalty following the commuting of the sentences of all death-row inmates on April 15.
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About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Posted on 2006-06-07