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Combating torture by Eric Bailey


September 24, 2012

An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission

WORLD: Combating torture
Eric Bailey

The third issue, volume one, of Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives has hit the presses and has several unique twists that will make it stand apart from other issues for some time to come. Due to an unusual set of circumstances, this issue was actually published jointly by both the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Danish Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT).

The reason for this was because of an Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-treatment summit that was held, by these two organizations, in Hong Kong, that gathered ministers of parliament and other experts from several different countries in Asia for the purpose of discussing human rights abuses and the means of combating them – both through legislation and implementation of existing laws.

As a result, parliamentarians and other experts from the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal have had their speeches printed in this issue, giving considerable insight into the state of affairs in these countries, in regards to human rights abuses, as well as a sense of the challenges facing law makers in those countries that must be overcome to effectively combat problems like torture.

Additionally, interviews with experts and editorial articles from others have added input from Sri Lankan Tamils, members of lower-level castes in India, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury under the Reagan Administration, and human rights activists from both the AHRC and the RCT.

This wealth of experts and the diverse knowledge they’ve shared continues to elevate the quality of this young magazine and, while reputations take time, Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives is off to an amazing start and is establishing itself as a credible and well written publication.

Being an American myself, I was especially interested in the interview with Paul Roberts. In this interview, Mr. Roberts did something that is unfortunately rare among American politicians these days: he made no distinction between the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations. Despite coming from the most famous and celebrated Republican Party administration in recent decades, he firmly condemned the Bush Administration for torturing prisoners that had been taken in conflicts since the 9/11 Attacks and he articulated his opposition to the Iraq and Afghan Wars. He explained the constitutional, statutory, and international laws and treaties designed to prevent the Federal Government of the United States from committing acts of torture. He explained, in detail and with historical examples, why such actions are not only immoral, but largely ineffective. And he clearly showed the ultimate danger of such actions for the American people – not in the form of revenge attacks from enraged Muslims or what have you, but through the erosion of American civil liberties and the further consolidation of government power.

Then, in the very next sentence, he condemned Obama for doing the exact same thing. In an era of intense political partisanship, where each political faction does its utmost to misrepresent and demonize the other, Paul Robert’s straight shooting was a breath of fresh air. He condemned Obama for ordering the assassination of American citizens without judicial review. He condemned the codifying into law of unjust and repressive powers, which now includes the power of the military to directly arrest American citizens, indefinitely, without charge, trial, warrant, or any other form of judicial review, and argued that both administrations were fundamentally responsible for the erosion of American civil liberties and the establishing of a regime that conducts routine, unwarranted, searches and regular domestic spying.

Mr. Roberts continued by calling for The West to be held accountable for its actions over the years, as a necessary step towards that dream of a torture free world, as well as towards the restoration of civil liberties in those Western countries (specifically in this interview, the United States). His arguments were thoughtful and articulate, and it is my hope that he will make additional appearances in future issues of this magazine.

Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives is a new initiative which is focuses mainly on torture and its related issues globally. Writers, who interested in having their views of this subject published, may submit their articles to torturemag@ahrc.asia

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About the author: Eric Bailey is a member of the editorial board of, Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.