Reporting on torture or other ill-treatment in 141 countries over the past five years, Amnesty International, has come up with a new global survey of more than 21,000 people in 21 countries revealing fear of torture exists in all these countries. More than 80% want strong laws to protect them from torture but more than a third believe torture can be justified.
In India, almost three quarters of respondents (74%) felt torture was sometimes necessary – the highest numbers in any of the countries polled (with same as in China also). In Indonesia, Pakistan and South Korea the majority of respondents feared they could be tortured if taken into custody.
In a number of Asia-Pacific countries the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is routine – and accepted by many as a legitimate response to high levels of crime. “Torture is a fact of life in countries across Asia. The problem isn’t limited to a few rogue states, but is endemic throughout the region,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director. “Asian countries must stop paying lip service to their commitment to end torture. Signing up to the international treaties is important but not enough. It must be backed up with concrete action.”
The two-year campaign, Stop Torture, launches with a new media briefing,Torture in 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises, which provides an overview of the use of torture in the world today.
In 2014, thirty years after the UN adopted the 1984 Convention Against Torture – which commits all states parties to combating the abuse – Amnesty International observed at least 23 Asia-Pacific countries still torturing or ill-treating. Given the secretive nature of the abuse, the true number is likely to be higher.
Bennett added that the shocking fact that so many people fear torture – in some countries the majority of those polled – should spur authorities across Asia-Pacific into meaningful action by taking concrete steps to eradicate this horrific human rights violation.
Amnesty says the torture is used by governments against a range of individuals across Asia-Pacific. In countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam it is used to force confessions or to silence activists. Torture is used to extort money in places such as Myanmar and Nepal, where poor and marginalised people are unable to bribe their way out of being tortured.
A worldwide Globescan survey commissioned alongside the briefing for the launch found nearly half (44%) of respondents – from 21 countries across every continent – fear they would be at risk of torture if taken into custody in their country.
“Thirty years after the adoption of the UN Convention against Torture, it is well overdue that governments in Asia Pacific stepped up to their responsibilities to stop torture. Systemic legal and practical safeguards to prevent and punish torture must be put in place and adhered to consistently across the region,” said Bennett.