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Human rights advocates hold seminar with NGOs on new anti-torture law

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Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from provinces in Mindanao on Wednesday completed a one day seminar on Anti-Torture Law and United Nations Committee Against Torture Concluding Observations and Recommendations, held in one of the local hotels in this city.

The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) oriented the NGOs on concluding observations and recommendations including the training of the police, military regarding the convention against torture and steps to be taken for people who are arrested and due process to be able to prevent torture.

"The conference (seminar) is in relation to the new law of anti-torture and its implementing rules and regulations. We have already, of course, received the United Nation's recommendations to the Philippine government after its report to implement the recommendations," said Max De Mesa, chairperson of the PAHRA.

According to De Mesa, the participants coming from their partner organizations based in Mindanao were oriented on the new Anti-Torture Law or Republic Act 9745 so that they will have a common knowledge on the law and share it to their respective communities and organizations.

Under the provisions of the new law, in a nutshell, the law makes torture a crime and it is primarily applicable to abusive authorities.

The law ensures the human rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees, and prisoners are respected at all times especially by law enforcers. It defined "torture" as an act which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining information from him or her.

Also, the law states that any confession, admission or statement obtained as a result of torture will be accepted as evidence in any proceedings.

Among the forms of physical torture were systematic beating, head banging, punching, kicking, striking with truncheon or rifle butt, food deprivation or forcible feeding with spoiled food, animal or human excreta and other stuff or substances not normally eaten, electric shock, cigarette burning, burning by electrically heated rods and the submersion of the head in water.

Meanwhile, some forms of mental torture include blindfolding, prolonged interrogation, confinement in solitary cells or secret detention places, preparing a prisoner for a "show trial" and public display or public humiliation of a detainee or prisoner.

With the new law, De Mesa said arrested persons or suspects should be given medical examination before and after they are detained to be able to prevent torture and ensure that they get due process and the prevention of any physical harm, psychological and mental torture.

"What is really needed is that the police and the military upon arrest they should immediately turn over the suspect or the arrested person to the proper authority and be given due process, especially having counseled present if there is any charges being traded against him or her," the human rights group leader stressed.

De Mesa disclosed that in the next few days and months they would step up their campaign on popularizing the knowledge about the new Anti-Torture Law in the different regions nationwide and at the same time to be able to train human rights defenders and para legal to be able to intervene in such cases.

It was learned from the human rights advocates that from 2001 to 2010, more than 200 torture cases were reported to them by their partner organizations from the different regions nationwide, wherein Mindanao had the most number of victims.

Source: Zamboanga Today Online