Every year under the auspices of UN, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is observed on June 26. The aim and objective of this observance is to speak out against the crime of torture and to honour and support victims and survivors of this inhuman treatment throughout the world. Former UN Secretary General of UN, Kofi Anan summed up the purpose of observing this day in these words, “This is a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable. This is an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable. It is long overdue that a day be dedicated to remembering and supporting the many victims and survivors of torture around the world.”

Ban Ki Moon, another UN Secretary General speaking on the significance of this day said, “On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we express our solidarity with, and support for, the hundreds of thousands of victims of torture and their family members throughout the world who endure such suffering. We also note the obligation of States not only to prevent torture but to provide all torture victims with effective and prompt redress, compensation and appropriate social, psychological, medical and other forms of rehabilitation. Both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have now strongly urged States to establish and support rehabilitation centres or facilities”.

It is an undeniable reality that torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and all other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment have been arbitrarily practiced by some states and their law enforcing agencies, particularly in dictatorial regimes. However, it has also existed in almost all human societies with varying degrees. It was in recognition of this reality that the UN adopted the Convention against Torture on December 10, 1984 which came into force on June 26, 1987 after ratification by signatory states. This day is now recognised as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in honour of the Convention.

The convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in the territory under their jurisdiction or control and imposes absolute prohibition against torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. There are 169 states which have signed and ratified the convention. It is also accepted as a principle of customary international law.

The UN Committee against Torture and extra judicial killings has been regularly compiling reports on this painful aspect with regards to Latin American, African, Asian and other countries, revealing the continuation of this detestable practice. Other independent organisations, NGOs and Amnesty International have also been sensitising and shaking the world’s conscience about this un-abetted crime against humanity, supported by the corroborative reports in the international media.

Unfortunately, the current theatre of torture and extra-judicial killings is Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IO&JK) where the Indian security forces continue to indulge in extra-judicial killings and instilling fear in the local population through third degree methods of torture. According to reports, nearly one hundred thousand Kashmiris have been killed by the Indian security forces since 1989 including more than 800 custodial deaths and extra-judicial killings.

Amnesty International issued a case study report in April 1993 on an incident at Sopore in IOK where the Border Security Force (BSF) of India shot dead 53 three people which indicates the extent and gravity of the situation in IO&JK. The report revealed “The killings in Sopore are part of a consistent pattern of extrajudicial executions, often involving innocent civilians, which has developed since early 1990 in the state. The rate of such killings appears to be increasing. The incident in Sopore is believed to be the largest of its kind to have happened in Jammu and Kashmir since at least 47 people were arbitrarily killed in Srinagar on May 21, 1990 by members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who opened fire to shoot to kill men and women participating in a funeral procession mourning the death of Srinagar’s Islamic leader, Maulvi Mohammed Farooq. In Sopore itself, similar allegations of extrajudicial executions had been reported last year when, on 13 April 1992, 13 civilians were indiscriminately killed by BSF personnel who entered houses, dragged out inhabitants and shot them dead, some four hours after armed militants had fired at BSF personnel.”

“This year, examples of such arbitrary killings of unarmed civilians include the shooting down of Dr Farooq Ahmad Ashai, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Bone and Joint Hospital in Srinagar, who had documented many cases of torture. Dr Ashai was shot dead a night when travelling in his car by a picket of the security forces, possibly the Central Reserve Police Force. Official reports that he died “in cross-fire” are not known to have been substantiated. In another incident, on 3 March, Hamida Mattoo, a 35-year-old woman from Baramulla, was shot dead when she returned with her children to her house at Mohalla Jadeed by members of the security forces reportedly shooting indiscriminately. According to press reports this was in retaliation for an attack earlier that day by armed militants on the security forces, in Baramulla.”

The ordeal of Kashmiris continues while the world remains indifferent to their plight. The situation has been further aggravated since August 5. The state is under curfew and the Indian security forces continue to kill people with impunity. Reportedly 110 people have been subjected to extra-judicial killings since then. International media and UN human rights body in its two consecutive reports has corroborated blatant violation of human rights In the Indian occupied Kashmir and even proposed the constitution of an inquiry commission.

In view of the reports of international media and the existence of authentic reports of Amnesty International and UN Human Rights Council reports in regards to torture and extra-judicial killings in IO&JK, the world community and the UN while observing the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture must also impress upon and remind India of her obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and Extra Judicial Killings.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance columnist.ashpak10@gmail.com