Torture is abhorrent. Torture is illegal. Yet torture is inflicted on men, women and children in the Philippines and well over half the countries around the world. Despite the universal condemnation of torture, it is still being used openly and secretly using national and international security from acts of terror as justifications for such acts. It is used to extract confession, to interrogate, to punish or to intimidate. While governments condemn terrorist acts, it is also evident that acts of terror are happening inside detention centers and prison cells, on city streets and in remote villages. The cruelty of torturers kills, maims, and leave scars on the body and mind that last a lifetime. The victims of torture are not just people in the hands of the torturers. Friends, families and the wider community all suffer. Torture even damages and distorts and the hopes of future generations.
In spite of strong provisions enshrined in the Philippine Constitution prohibiting the use of torture and the Philippines having had been a state party to the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) since 1987, the act remains in widespread use today. The concept of the right to be free from torture eludes the general public and disappointingly, government representatives and state security forces as well. In order to see the decline of the practice in country, it is important that all members of society become informed of this right inherent to all individuals.
2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). However, the rights set out in the UDHR are far from realized. Over recent years, there has been an assault on fundamental rights enshrined in that document including the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5). In the context of counter terrorism measures taken since 11 September 2001, this protection has been undermined – marked by a growing acceptance of torture or other ill-treatment in the context of intelligence-gathering, resort to illegal modes of detention for those suspected of involvement in terrorism, and lack of accountability for those who have authorized or committed torture and other ill-treatment. These are key challenges facing the human rights movement.
Today, June 26, the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, organizations in the UDHR 60 Alliance will focus on the global reaffirmation of nations and peoples to the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment as set in the UDHR 60 years ago.
And as part of the year-long commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR, AI Philippines, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), the Balay Rehabilitation Center (BALAY) and the members of the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC), joins the international community in the global campaign to prevent and stop the practice of torture in all corners of the world as codified in the UNCAT 22 years ago through BRAT 2 or Basta! Run Against Torture – the local counterpart of simultaneous actions by different organizations all over the world will serve as a reminder to the Philippine Government and the all nations that peoples all over the world will not tire of demanding the respect, protection and fulfillment of their right not to be tortured. BRAT 2 is one of the many public actions that will communicate globally that the use of torture must be stopped and the protection and safeguarding of human rights must be put into reality.
The UATC calls on the Philippine Government to:
- Condemn all forms of torture and other ill-treatment and complicity in such abuse;
- The United States and its allies in the War Against Terror to stop their program of rendition and use of secret detentions
- The Security and defense sectors of the Philippines must openly condemn the use of torture
- Prevent –through ending secret and incommunicado detention, which facilitate torture or may themselves amount to torture or other ill-treatment, and other illegal detention;
- Pass the anti-torture law in the country
- Senate must concur the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT)
- Hold to account – through thorough investigations, including prosecution of those responsible.
- Go after the perpetrators of torture and hold them accountable in courts