Parliamentarians from several Asian countries are poised to meet and discuss ways to end the widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment in their countries. The three day meeting will take place in Kowloon, Hong Kong, starting on July 21st.
The meeting is a significant step towards the implementation of the United Nations' Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).
Parliamentarians from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka have already confirmed their participation. Several prominent human rights activists from South and South-East Asia will also be traveling to Hong Kong to contribute to the discussion.
The meeting is sponsored by the Asian Alliance against Torture and ill-treatment (AAATI). AAATI was initiated in July 2011, when a group of human rights activists from several Asian countries came together under the auspices of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Hong Kong, and the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT), Denmark. The alliance aims to make a concerted effort to introduce legislation in all Asian countries along the lines of UNCAT, and to ensure effective implementation of such critical laws that can safeguard human beings from torture and ill-treatment.
John Clancey, Chairperson of the AHRC, will present the keynote speech, and Dr. Jan Ole Haagensen, Director of the International Department of RCT, will present the theme paper, which will seek to provide an overall approach and strategy for effective elimination of torture in Asia. Several prominent members of Hong Kong human rights community will present their unique perspectives. And, the invited parliamentarians from each country will present papers on the subject, which will be discussed by all participants.
Professor Ole Espersen, former Minister of Justice, Denmark, has sent his greetings to the participants of the conference, stating that the "right not to be exposed to torture is in fact no real and genuine right if it is not combined with an effective remedy for the victims to make use of a legal machinery to have what the victim had to suffer redressed and guilty persons punished." In addition Professor Espersen has noted that the "ultimate responsibility for the national fight against torture – and all other human rights violations, rests with the parliament and the government in each country."
This meeting of parliamentarians from across Asian nations, who will gather in Hong Kong for the sole purpose of considering possibilities on how to bring an end to torture, is an unprecedented event.