UN Convention Against Torture Ratified. Hope for Christians in Orissa
by Nirmala Carvalho
For human rights activist Lenin Raghuvanshi the law will enable Christians in Orissa to seek justice. The bill approved by the government was presented yesterday in parliament. Measure to be enforced by local governments, who will have to ensure an end to police use of torture to further investigations and maintain control over the population.




Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "With this law, our victims of Kandhamal (Orissa) will have justice." So says Lenin Raghuvanshi, executive director of People's Committee for the supervision of Human Rights (Pvchr), speaking to AsiaNews after the Government approval of the Bill for the Prevention of Torture. The new law was introduced in parliament yesterday. It will ratify the UN convention against torture signed by India in 1997 but never enforced because of the lack of a law in the Indian Constitution. To date, local governments allow the police use of torture. Through this practice the police has been able to cover up its involvement in the pogrom against Christians in Orissa in 2008.

Lenin Raghuvanshi, said: "Art. 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture states that any attack on an organized religion, race, caste or gender will be considered as torture. In most cases, the police are involved thanks to the complicity of the state. So the measure will also apply in cases of the pogroms that took place in Kadhamal district and Gujarat”.

The activist claims that the law clarifies the mechanisms for investigation of the facts of torture and protecting witnesses. "Given the nature of the crime - says Raghuvanshi –it is imperative that torture must be investigated by an investigating agency independent of the police and having no officers on deputation from any other law enforcement agencies." "In local government – he continues  - One of the reasons for the failure of successful prosecution of complaints against police in the country is that the investigation is conducted either by police officers directly or indirectly involved in the crime or their superiors and Kandhamal is the most glaring example of this. Indian society is basically and intrinsically an upper caste patriarchal society  and with this Bill there is a clear provision for witness protection and in Kandhamal due to rampant witness intimidation, the witnesses are turning hostile in court and resulting in acquittals”.  When the proposal becomes law - says the activist - the Pvchr will use it to bring evidence of violence against Christians in front of the Supreme Court and show the responsibility of the government of Orissa.

Raghuvanshi also highlights the limits of the new law, which requires reporting cases of torture within six months of the violence. "Take for example the case of the violence suffered by Christians in Kandhamal – he states - the victims could not report their fate for fear of retaliation." He also cites cases of rape, which are often reported after months or years. Raghuvanshi points out that the law takes no account of gender either and does not consider sexual violence suffered by women in prison to be torture.