Thursday, July 12, 2012

H.E. Mr. Pavel Svitil Chargé d'affaires, European Union Delegation to India speech in the in the inaugural session, “Testimonial campaign contribute to eliminate impunity for perpetrators of torture in India” on 12 July, 2012 at India Habitat Center


National Consultation

"Testimonial Campaign contributes to eliminate impunity for perpetrator of Torture in India"



Organised by EU Funded Project

"Reducing police torture against Muslim Grass – root level by engaging and strengthening Human Rights Institutions in India", implemented by Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)



12 July 2012, Magnolia Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi






Address by

H.E. Mr. Pavel Svitil

Chargé d'affaires, European Union Delegation to India



Honourable Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission,
Distinguished Guests on the Dais,

Ladies and gentlemen,


It is indeed an honour and a pleasure to be here today at the 'National Consultation on Testimonial therapy to eliminate impunity for perpetrators of Torture in India', which is being organised by the Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, as part of the EU funded project "Reducing police torture against muslims at the grassroot level by engaging and strengthening Human Rights Institutions in India"


Let me begin by saying that I commend PVCHR for its courage in tackling a serious and sensitive issue such as Torture.

The French writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said: "The purpose of torture is not only the extortion of confession, of betrayal: the victim must disgrace himself, by his screams and his submission, like a human animal - in the eyes of everybody and in his own eyes. He who yields under torture is not only to be made to talk, but is also to be marked as sub-human."


This quote captures very well the extent to which victims of torture are marked forever by the inhuman treatment they are put through. Yet torture is not only a tragedy for the victims, it is also degrading for those who perpetrate it, and to societies which tolerate such outrage.


Freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is an inalienable human right. The prohibition of torture is a basic principle of international human rights law. This prohibition is absolute and allows no exception. And yet, even today, torture continues to be practiced by many countries across the world, not just in conflict situations, but even in situations of peace.


The prevention and eradication of all forms of torture and ill-treatment worldwide represents one of the main objectives of the EU human rights policy. Similarly our support goes to the rehabilitation of victims of torture. The signature and ratification by all States of the UN Convention Against Torture and of its Optional Protocol (establishing an international inspection system for detention facilities) is a very important part of our policy to abolish torture worldwide. The EU hence welcomes the recent ratification of the Optional Protocol by Turkey, the Philippines, Mauritania, Venezuela, Cape Verde, Tunisia, and Panama.


As recently as 19 December 2011, the UN General Assembly, in its Resolution 66/150, has condemned all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including through intimidation, which are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever and can thus never be justified. The EU fully supports this and calls upon all States to implement fully the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The EU has a general framework for action in the context of its external affairs both at the bilateral level with individual countries and in multilateral fora such as the UN. They are called Guidelines on Torture and were adopted in 2001 and updated just some days ago. You will find them on our website. The EU Guidelines give us a wide range of instruments to raise the issue of torture. They foresee the use of all available tools of diplomacy and cooperation to reach the EU objectives, most notably: through political dialogue, diplomatic representations and financial assistance under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. We are hence raising the issue of torture systematically with our partner countries. No individual country or group of countries is left out.


Through funding at national and EU level, the EU is a leading source of financial support to organisations that provide medical, social, legal or other assistance to many men, women, and children who are victims of torture, to restore their health and dignity as human beings.


Over the last 5 years, an average of € 12 million (Rs. 85 crore) per year has been allocated, globally, by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights to funding anti-torture projects. Between 2007-10, the EIDHR funded, indicatively, 80 projects around the world in the field of torture prevention and victim rehabilitation. For 2011-2013, the EIDHR allocated almost € 38 million (Rs. 270 crore) to support civil society organisations around the world to implement anti- torture actions (i. e. € 12.5 million, Rs. 88 crores per year).


On 1st June, the EU launched a new call for proposals focused on "Fighting impunity" which is dedicated to supporting civil society actions against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The total amount of the call for anti-torture projects is over 16. million euros. Organisations interested to apply for funding can download the application forms and call guidelines from our website, but the deadline for submission of concept notes is the 20th of July, not much time left now.


In India, the EU is also providing support to NGOs for actions related to prevention of torture and rehabilitation of torture victims. Since 2006, we have spent more than € 2.6 million. (Rs. 19 crore) to support a number of projects that have focused on prevention of torture through awareness-raising and advocacy; improving health and dignity of torture victims; and reducing the incidence of torture by police among certain communities. Research on torture practices, legal reform, legal support for victims, and legislative lobbying are at the very heart of these projects, as are capacity-building effort for human rights defenders and for strengthening the institutional framework. The project funded through PVCHR is one such initiative.


I would like to take this opportunity to commend the unrelenting efforts of the many NGOs and individuals who have been working tirelessly towards preventing torture and alleviating the suffering of victims, as well as mobilizing public opinion.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is said that charity begins at home, so the EU adopted measures taking the lead in the fight against torture and ill-treatment continues. The absolute ban on torture and ill-treatment enshrined in core UN human rights conventions is reflected in the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the EU. All EU Member States have ratified the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which provides for visits to places of detention (including prisons, police stations, army barracks, and psychiatric hospitals) by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. All reports of visits are made public. 


The establishment of the national and international monitoring mechanisms under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture provides an additional layer of scrutiny. Out of 27 Member States, so far 16 have ratified the Protocol and 7 others have signed it.


At the level of the European Union, specific legislation lays down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers, and obliges Member States to ensure that victims of torture receive the necessary care.


As the largest trading actor in the world, the EU tries to prevent the use, production and trade of any equipment designed to inflict torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Specific legislation on trade in goods which could be used for capital punishment or torture prohibits the export and import of those goods. This represents a first attempt at regional level to introduce such a ban and the EU hopes that other states in the world will introduce similar legislation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,


India has signed the Convention Against Torture in 1997. This was the first step, the next one a ratification of both the Convention and its Optional Protocol is still pending. The ratification was one of the major issues discussed during the Universal Periodic Review of India at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in May this year, witnessing the international attention on the issue.


On 26 June, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the EU Delegation organised a public event with illustrious speakers, including Union Law Minister Shri Salman Khurshid. On this occasion Minister Khurshid publicly pledged to take up the issue of the Prevention of Torture Bill with the Home Minister and the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs.


The expected adoption of the Prevention of Torture Bill would be a further testimony of India's engagement against Torture. The debates the Bill has generated since its introduction in Parliament in 2010 manifest the vibrancy of India's attachment to one of the founding pillars of international human rights law.

We should also not forget that human rights activists and defenders are often operating in very difficult circumstances. Their vital work contributes to the development of societies in which the human rights of all will be respected. In this respect, I would like to congratulate the Peoples' Vigilance Committee for Human Rights and other organizations associated with this project, for the good work that they have been doing in this field, with great courage and heart.

On my own behalf, and on behalf of the European Union, I wish PVCHR and its partners all the best in their endeavours, and hope that they will succeed in their objective to increase public awareness and state accountability towards torture, and more important, ensure the restoration of dignity to victims of torture.

 Thank you, and I wish you all the best for the next two days of consultation