Torture, Justice and Democracy: Myths and Misconceptions by lFbWyi


              hile public attention in the post 9/11 world has focused on the
              high-profile use of torture in the interest of national security,
              most incidences of torture occur in far more common, everyday
situations, often in countries that consider themselves democratic. In these
environments, the majority of torture victims come from economically disad-
vantaged groups and ethnic minorities, whose systematic victimization leads
them to accept their cruel treatment as part of their social identity and lot in
life. This culture of tolerance is, in turn, exploited by poorly trained police
forces, who resort to torture as a routine means of gathering information.
     How can democracies turn a blind eye to ongoing
human rights abuses occurring within their borders? A
responsible society must address this issue and careful-
ly consider the corrosive consequences of torture in a
democracy. Because an engaged, educated public offers
a potent safeguard against abuses carried out with im-
punity, an in-depth and far-reaching discussion of tor-
ture’s implications for democratic principles such as
the rule of law, access to justice, and the right to health
is an essential first step toward publicizing the problem

and identifying ways to end it.
                                                —Alice Verghese, June 25, 2008
   Torture, Justice and Democracy:
   Myths and Misconceptions

   Alice Verghese
   Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow
   National Endowment for Democracy
   June 25, 2008

The views expressed in this presentation represent the opinions and analysis of
the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for
Democracy or its staff.
         Presentation Outline
 Definition   of Torture
 Torture   Legislation: The Practice on Paper
 Torture   in the Field: Myths and Misconceptions
 • Context of Its Current Use
 • Incentives to Use Torture
 • Incidences of Torture

 Consequences    for Justice—Victor Madrigal Borloz
 Consequences    for Health—Dr. Allen Keller
 Consequences    for Democracy
            International Obligations
                                                       Sri Lanka   Philippines
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of
Genocide (1948)                                                       
Geneva Conventions (1949)                                             
UN CAT (1994)                                                         
 Optional Protocol I                                                  
UN International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) (1980)                                       
 First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR                                 
 Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR                                
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court                      
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (CERD)                                                 
International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights (ICESCR) 1974                                         
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1980                      
     Definition of Torture
“…Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether
 physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a
 person . . . for purposes such as obtaining from him
 information or a confession, punishing him for an act
 he has committed, or intimidating or coercing him.
 Such pain or suffering is inflicted by, or at the
 instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of,
 a public official or other person acting in an official
                    —U.N. Convention Against Torture
Formal Complaint Mechanisms
         in Sri Lanka
             Attorney General’s Office

Special Investigative Unit     Prosecutor of Torture Unit

        Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG)

              Superintendent of Police (SP)

        Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP)

          Formal Complaint of Torture is Filed
Difficulties in Data Collection
  Lack   of consistent data collection methods
  Fragmented     response from those in the field
  Torture’s   secretive nature
       Torture in the Field
   Myth:    In the presence of numerous
             international (and national) laws
             protecting human rights, a country’s key
             democratic institutions are better
             equipped to defend human rights.

   Reality: There exists a large gap between
             legislation on paper and its
             implementation in practice.
       Torture in the Field
   Myth:      Most incidences of torture are
               politically motivated, high-profile
   Reality:   In practice, torture occurs on a
               routine basis and has become a
               common policing method in
               combating crime.
     Torture in the Field
   Myth:    New emergency legislations will
             provide new safeguards against
   Reality: New emergency legislation has
             led to increases in state-sponsored
       Obstacles to Justice
 Lengthy    Detention without Charge
 Blurred    Lines of Accountability
 Legal   Exemptions for High Officials
 Civilian   Appointees with Powers of Arrest
         Obstacles to Health
 Delays   in Examination
 Lack   of Qualified Medical Practitioners
 Lack   of Medical Confidentiality
 Questions for Discussion
 Whydo we need public conversations on torture in
 democratic nations?
 What are the consequences of torture at an
 individual, society and national level?
 What can the international community do to support
 the torture rehabilitation and prevention initiatives in
 these countries?
Torture, Justice and Democracy:
Myths and Misconceptions

Alice Verghese
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow
June 25, 2008

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