Asia Pacific Region, June 26th 2023 – The Asia Alliance Against Torture, a collaborative movement to build and connect a community of human rights lawyers against torture in the Asia region and foster the sharing of advocacy strategies and experiences to build capacity for reform and ensure freedom from torture in Asia wishes to commemorate for the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The momentum was built since since 1987 by the United Nations Office Constitutes the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), a core instrument to combat torture.
Until this moment, several countries across the Asia Pacific within the membership of A3T had ratified UNCAT: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, and Thailand. India had signed the convention but has yet to ratify, while Malaysia had not ratified or signed the convention. Status might differ between countries throughout the ratification process and its internal condition, but to an extent, the issue of torture remain a huge concern of CSOs in the Asia Pacific as the events does not stop in a specific timeline. The continuous torture events occur are remain to trigger two things: (1) security officers such as police, the national army, and border security officers as the main perpetrator of the issue and (2) state which welcomes the impunity chain which triggers the lingering torture cases in their respective countries.
First, security forces in the Asia Pacific have the utmost privilege to own weapons to ensure the safety of the society. But this was then used as a leverage for the group to exercise torture towards the mentioned target of safety. One series of events can be viewed from MASUM India’s monitoring which symbolizes the systematic pattern of torture in India where border security officers are very well-known for their scheme in plunging farmers who are living in the Bangladesh border and framing them in doing illegal activities which lead to harsh interrogation, illegal detention and torture acts. Several of these farmers, HRDs, or other groups (even children, women and elderly) are also experiencing arbitrary arrest for the things they did not do and even ended up being killed. They all are enjoyed with impunity. More than 175 HRIs of India are proven dysfunctional.
Security forces also have more access to visit civilians by seizing property from the civilians. Odhikar Director and Bangladesh Human Rights Defender, Adilur Rahman Khan, witnessed how police went to his house to search and raid for documents which he had compiled so far in regards to torture and enforced disappearances cases which never gained justice from his country. The organization was also threatened by the Bangladeshi Government to shut down its operation since it has harmed the state’s image to international entities. The core case from Bangladesh has also been a reflection to more country members from the South and Southeast Asia where human rights defenders are restrained from stating facts revolving around gross human rights violations in the respective countries through reports or programs to or with the regional and international entities.
Several activities done by the security officers also refer to the second point of the statement which is the neglect of state to welcome impunity which triggers torture to keep occurring in the Asia Pacific. Signed or not, ratified or not, states across the Asia Pacific are still allowing their security officers to exercise torture. Indonesia has ratified the UNCAT through Law No.5 of 1998 but still has an increasing number of torture events from 50 in June 2021 – May 2022 to 54 in June 2022 – May 2023 with security officers roaming around and giving false accusations to innocent civilians who are underage at some incidents and to implement harsh interrogation which lead to serious trauma to the victims. Nepali government had also been very negligent to specific issues such as custodial death and extrajudicial killing. According to the report from Advocacy Forum, 39 custodial deaths occurred within 2018 to 2022 in prison, arms officers, and child correction homes.
State’s compliance to not only Convention Against Torture (CAT), but also the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) such as the Philippines has not shown its compromise nor will to support the elimination of torture. The amount of extrajudicial killings shrouded with the “War on Drugs” policy since Rodrigo Duterte’s regime to Bongbong Marcos did not stop. When it comes to narcotics, Thailand who has also ratified the UNCAT since 2007 have the same pattern to use secret detention by anti-narcotics units and secret military detentions to allow abusive acts to the prisoners as demonstrators tortured in police custody to death.
The government of Malaysia has actually different approach in handling torture issue as they have not signed or ratified the UNCAT up until this point. Mirroring from the amount of arbitrary arrests, torture, unfair trial, and impunity, the state lacks international commitment as well as political will to combat the mentioned issues. Incidents of physical violence inflicted upon detainees under remand or during investigations are prevalent especially when there is chain remand or detention under security laws. Deaths in custody due to injuries sustained have exposed the extent of physical violence inflicted upon victims while in police detention. Meanwhile, the reality of low prosecution rates for torture is reflected in the accounts of civil claims that are brought by torture victims or their families. These accounts often describe how aggrieved parties are forced to seek justice themselves, in the absence of an independent and impartial investigative authority with the power to prosecute.
Therefore, the alliance stresses:
Advocacy Forum – Nepal (AF)
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha – India (MASUM India)
Cross Cultural Foundation – Thailand (CrCf)
Medical Action Group – Philippines (MAG)
MUSAWI – Pakistan
Odhikar – Bangladesh
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Task Force Detainees Philippines (TFDP)
The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence – Indonesia (KontraS)
 MASUM India, “Monthly Human Rights Report January 2023” and “Monthly Human Rights Report February 2023”
 CIVICUS, “Bangladesh Crackdown on the Opposition and Critical Journalists Escalates as Elections Loom”, https://monitor.civicus.org/explore/bangladesh-crackdown-on-the-opposition-and-critical-journalists-escalates-as-elections-loom/
 KontraS, https://kontras.org/2022/06/24/laporan-situasi-praktik-penyiksaan-dan-perlakuan-atau-penghukuman-lain-yang-kejam-tidak-manusiawi-atau-merendahkan-martabat-manusia-di-indonesia-periode-juni-2021-mei-2022/
 US Department of State, “2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nepal”, https://www.state.gov/reports/2022-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/nepal
 Human Rights Watch, “Thailand: War on Torture, ‘Disappeared’ Delayed’, https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/02/15/thailand-law-torture-disappearance-delayed