Sunday, August 06, 2006

European Union supported National Project on "Preventing Torture in India: from Public Awareness to State Accountability"

European Union supported National Project on "Preventing Torture in India: from Public Awareness to State Accountability"

European Union has formally approved this national level project in the last week of December 2005 and it comes into effect from January 2006 for a period of three years. The aim of the action is to initiate and model a national campaign for the prevention of torture in India, with a deliberate focus on torture practices routinely employed by police. This project will be carried out in 10 States: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bihar.

The overall goal is the prevention and reduction of torture in India, where police abuses remain an entrenched and often routine law enforcement strategy. And its scope will include interventions against instances of assault and physical abuse, custodial death, custodial rape, threats and psychological humiliation, and deprivation of food, water, sleep, and medical attention.

protect potential victims of torture, particularly those belonging to vulnerable and marginalized communities,
highlight individual cases of torture as and when they occur,
improve institutional response to instances of torture by demanding state accountability,
advance an ethic of responsibility and restraint among law enforcement officers,
educate and enlist professional groups such as lawyers, social activists, doctors, psychiatrists, journalists, and teachers in the campaign to prevent and eliminate torture,
raise public awareness of torture as an unlawful and widespread abuse of police powers,
promote favourable policy outcomes in the form of anti-torture legislation and fulfilling of commitments to existing international treaties.

Two stages will drive the action’s overall agenda: first, the formation of ten state-wide networks to monitor instances of torture and intervene on behalf of individual victims; and second, a national awareness campaign that uses this monitoring data to generate public and professional condemnation of torture practices within a wider culture of rights, improve enforcement of and adherence to existing constitutional guarantees, and lobby for CAT ratification and stricter domestic laws in India’s Parliament and the individual state legislative assemblies.

The district-by-district torture monitoring will be conducted by a corps of 100 torture monitors across the ten states, drawn from local affiliates coordinated by FNF’s partner People’s Watch Tamil Nadu. Torture monitors will investigate abuses as they occur in real-time—interviewing victims, witnesses, and police, collecting documents, and mobilizing local media coverage. These fact-finding missions will subsequently provide the basis for targeted legal interventions, primarily in support of individuals from marginalized groups, performed by staff lawyers in each state.

The national awareness campaign coordinated by project staff will employ the raw data generated by these monitoring activities to drive media coverage, public education, and lobbying activities devoted to bringing greater visibility to the prevalence of torture in India. Reporting on individual instances of abuse will be matched by activities that aim to broadly educate public audience as to their rights and the legal resources available to them. On a policy level, the campaign will push to increase these protections. It will also include at its core a series of state-level awareness conferences targeting the various professions implicated in the elimination of torture: lawyers, social activists, doctors, psychiatrists, journalists, and teachers. Police themselves, as well as members of the judiciary, are also to be treated as intermediaries, receiving awareness training that addresses them as constructive partners rather than adversaries in this project