KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 ― Human rights activists and lawyers banded together today to launch a campaign aimed at pressuring the government to sign the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT).
Citing the frequent reports on custodial deaths here, as well as other claims of torture in lock-ups, prisons and detention centers, the activists said it was high time that Malaysia be held responsible for ensuring those responsible do not get away scot-free.
Those involved in the campaign launched at Universiti Malaya here include Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Amnesty International (AI) Malaysia, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), Bar Council Malaysia and Lawyers for Liberty.
Shamini Darshni, executive director of AI Malaysia said the ratification will not mark a quick end to torture practices but it will at least demonstrate the government’s commitment to end the inhumane practice.
“Ratification of the Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol will signal the Malaysian government’s effort to eradicate torture, ensure that torturers are found out and brought to book as well as demonstrate the intention to protect from harm those deprived from liberty,” she said during her speech at the launch here in Universiti Malaya.
Malaysia is among four countries in Southeast Asia and one of about 30 countries in the world that have not ratified the convention.
Others in the region are Brunei, Myanmar and Singapore.
AI Malaysia has also launched a petition calling on the government to ratify CAT. The petition, now available on its website, will conclude in December.
Sevan Doraisamy, executive director of Suaram said there needs to be “behavioral change” in the general public before the campaign can effectively pressure the government into ratifying the convention.
“Some people think it is okay to torture criminals but prison sentence is already a torture.
“So this campaign has to be massive, or mass-oriented,” he said during the panel discussion.
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said one of the main objectives of the joint campaign is to promote greater awareness among various stakeholders on the importance of acceding to CAT and of eliminating and preventing torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Suaram has reported that in this year alone, there has been nine case of deaths in police custody, six in hospitals, one in lock-up, one in prison and one in a detention centre, bringing the number to 251 from the year 2000.
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