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Torture is foremost about the state

Torture is foremost about the state

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that its poster issued on the occasion of the June 26 International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in the Philippines has been altered by some unknown persons who inserted a different picture but retained the name and logo of the AHRC. The altered posters, which depict torture committed by an insurgent rather than a police officer, have reportedly been put up in various public places in Catbalogan, Samar.

This act of mischief seems intended to distort the original message of the poster, which was that in terms of the UN Convention against Torture the state bears responsibility to eliminate torture committed by its officers or persons working on their behalf, as defined in the convention. The AHRC categorically rejects the deliberate distortion and misuse of this poster and states that its name was placed on the altered version without permission.

The AHRC is opposed to every form of violence used by any group for whatever ends. However, under international law it is the primary responsibility of the state to eliminate torture among state agents and their accomplices. As a matter of practice and law, the AHRC calls upon all states to eliminate torture in accordance with the Convention against Torture. As the government of the Philippines is a party to this convention, it has already recognised this obligation in principle.

Whereas the Constitution of the Philippines--which came about after the People's Power uprising that ousted former dictator Ferdinand Marcos--contains a comprehensive bill on human rights, torture remains a major problem for that country. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the police and military torture with impunity. A series of bills has been registered before the parliament to make torture a crime in the Philippines, yet the introduction of a law has been unnecessarily protracted and appears to be meeting with resistance from within the government. Meanwhile, under domestic and international pressure, the government recently abolished the death penalty. Nonetheless, human rights defenders and social activists are killed on an almost daily basis without any apparent sense of responsibility being shown by the authorities.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is concerned to encourage the government of the Philippines to uphold its international commitments and also seeks to encourage people in the Philippines to campaign actively against the use of torture and other gross abuses of human rights by state agents, especially the police and armed forces. This is vital if Filipinos are to enjoy a genuine--not merely formal--democracy.  The AHRC is committed to continue working towards that end with all persons in the Philippines and abroad who share this common goal with a spirit of goodwill and honesty.  

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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 2006-07-05

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