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How I learned that Torture is a Bad Thing: Notes of a Lawyer


By Sarim Naved,

It was during my first year in practice that I first met a victim of torture. The concept of ‘torture’, before that day, existed for me only as a concept. In the scheme of things, it was a bad thing, but I must confess that I never actually spared a thought for what it actually meant. Much like most people, I had vague notions of good torture and bad torture. There were certain situations where torture didn’t offend as much as it did in other situations. I have since come to realise that the essence of torture is humiliation. Violence offends most when it is perpetrated against the defenceless. For every gain made through questionable means, there is a corresponding loss through the dehumanisation of a human being, the effects of which are not only felt by the victim but also manifest through the repulsion and anger birthed through the excesses of the perpetrators.

I was in Tihar Jail to advise a client, a man, accused of being in league with terrorists. A crucial stage of the trial was coming up, that of the statement of the accused, and he had wanted to meet me to understand what would be expected of him. I explained the process to him and then I told him that the last question the judge would ask him would be, “Do you have anything else to say?” He pondered on this for a moment. Then he said, “I wanted to show you something, there is something that I have written down, I want to tell the judge that. Could you please read it?” He reached down into the polythene bag he was carrying. All undertrials, at least the educated ones, carry a polythene bag or a plastic folder with their case documents. These are pulled out in their meetings with lawyers with a degree of desperation, hoping against hope that something will be found in those papers, something which has been missed till then, which will guarantee their freedom.. He looked into his bag and fumbled around with trembling hands and located two sheets of folded paper. He mumbled some incomplete sentences about not knowing whether he should say this. His demeanour had changed, his eyes danced around the room furtively trying to avoid my gaze. With some puzzlement, I took the papers. It was an account of his interrogation, the first few days of custody when the suspect is under police remand. The things that had been done to him, that he had experienced, did not make sense. I do not want to infringe on his privacy or to bring in an element of morbidity by reproducing it here. Suffice it to say that I still wish I had not read those two pages.

Report on a recent case of Torture and Custodial Death  in Mumbai Mirror Report on a recent case of Torture and Custodial Death in Mumbai Mirror

One had read about human beings doing such things to others but this was different. This was a living, breathing, somewhat avuncular human being who had been made into something less. Both of us sat there, trying not to look each other in the eye. He asked me again what I thought, whether he should tell the judge all this. I gave him the truthful answer, which was that it wouldn’t make a difference. The judge was a good judge but he would assume that these things were lies told by a man desperate to save himself. The policemen who were capable of such things would get away scot-free. As a friend was to later observe when she met a torture victim for an academic study that some kinds of torture are so demeaning that it becomes hard to even look at the victim. I don’t know whether this happens because of sympathy or disgust but either explanation is not a happy one. Infliction of violence, repeatedly and with an intent to demean and to break, creates ripples much beyond the intentions of the perpetrator.

By itself, the fact that torture existed was not news, but this meeting introduced me to another aspect of power and the way it dehumanises. I could not sleep for the next two nights and as bothered as I was by having this knowledge thrust upon me I found my anger welling up against this man, the victim. It is always most comforting when faced with senseless barbarism to blame the victim. It’s a way of assuring one’s own safety from that particular type of violence. If the dehumanisation of that man could have such an insidious effect on me and I was nothing more than a bystander, what effect would it have on this man? His family knew something of what happened to him. They were in the next room for part  of his torture. The threat was that if you don’t tell us what we want, we will do the same to your wife and children. Needless to say, the man complied and signed on whatever documents they brought to him. This is what he told me, but none of these documents were even used in the trial. A person’s dignity was peeled away and that too, for nothing. Would his family, his friends, not talk about it? What anger they would feel that a person could be treated like this by the Indian state? Whatever was done by these police officers, even if they felt this man was a criminal, could not but inspire much mistrust and hatred against the State.

The more one thinks about it, the less sense this tolerance of custodial violence makes. Investigations by the police in India are not always of the highest order or done very competently. The emphasis, judging by the chargesheets filed in court, is not always on investigation but on proving the Investigating Officer’s theory. There are laughable inconsistencies in the record of the case and witnesses trip over themselves in testifying to details that are not true. What is most unfortunate is that the Courts often try to step in to make up for what seems the carelessness of the police. Reasonable doubt then becomes a benefit that is allowed to the police and not to the accused. Criminal law is turned on its head. The prevalence of this kind of policing is tragic for the police, for victims of crime and for all of us who simply want our lives to be safe. Every false prosecution means that the true perpetrator of a crime walks free and every instance of violence by the police, the most visible face of the State, inspires more violence.

Another client, a very poor man, recently told me very happily that the police did not torture him but only slapped him a few times. There is a larger narrative of violence that is impossible to ignore. While congratulating ourselves on a society which, on the surface is largely law-abiding, is comfortable with violence, whether it be against women, Dalits, minorities or anybody who is disempowered. All that is required is an excuse. Dalits are attacked because they dare challenge the status quo, Muslims and Christians because they are anti-national and as for women, the excuses are too many to list here.  Tolerance of violence in one situation necessarily leads to tolerance of violence in other situations. Neat segmentation of state excesses being deemed acceptable in certain situations is a fantasy. Apart from the moral arguments against torture, this is the pragmatic argument.

At the risk of sounding naïve, let me end on a hopeful note. The legal system in India works, albeit slowly and in very mysterious ways. There are policemen who show kindness to people in custody and there are judges who try and ensure fairness in proceedings before them. As another person, accused of being associated with terrorists, told me. “These policemen”, meaning the staff at Tihar, “are good people”. He hated the policemen who framed him and tortured him but not the jail staff who had been kind to him on various occasions. Hope, if any, comes from these police officers who can change the dominant narrative of marginalisation and uncontrolled police excess. The adulation of police officers who bring in immediate results without regard for pesky things like the truth needs to give way to a more nuanced understanding of policing, which is based on investigation and deduction. Crimes will soemtimes go unsolved but an unsolved crime is better than the false comfort of knowing that somebody, anybody, is being punished for the crime. In our desperation to not be victimised, let us not condone the victimisation of others.

Sarim Naved is a human rights lawyer based in Delhi.

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Who is stiffing the third world poor? US government lawyer


 Published: Wednesday, 27 Nov 2013
By:  |

Caroline Purser | Getty Images

You’ve probably watched this scene in a Hollywood movie: A relative of a minor despot in an unnamed African country mixes smooth talk with a hint of menace while conversing with a Western businessman over tea. The businessman then craftily pushes a suitcase across the floor, eliciting a hearty chuckle from his counterpart.

Corruption is found in all countries, yet the countries where bribery is most insidious—the places where the minor despot’s brother-in-law gets what he asks for when oil and gas contracts are in the offing—are the nations often left out of the bargain when the world’s anti-corruption forces actually crack down and extract big monetary settlements. A new report from The World Bank and UN Office on Drugs and Crime‘s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative found that the biggest regulators and long arms of the global law are doing a good job of cracking down on foreign bribery—they just aren’t sharing the wealth when the corruption cases are closed, or helping those countries to cut off corruption at its roots.

Between 1999 and mid-2012, 395 foreign bribery cases were legally settled in a different country from the country where the bribery occurred. From a total $5.8 billion extracted in settlements, only 3 percent ($197 million out of $5.8 billion) was returned to the “affected” countries, The World Bank found. Most of the money stays in one country—the United States. Of the 395 cases studied by The World Bank, just under 70 percent of those cases were prosecuted by the U.S., primarily the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission.

The World Bank/UN study, though, is not an implicit indictment of the United States in the fight against global corruption. The U.S. looms large in the study, primarily in reference to the total sum of assets recovered, for a few key reasons. For one, the country’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) put it ahead of many other nations in directing resources to the global effort. In addition, multinational corporations that list in the U.S., the world’s biggest market, are subject to the FCPA. But if things are going to change and more money from corruption settlements go to systematic reform in the developing world, the U.S. will have to play a big role in sending settlement money beyond its own federal coffers.

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“We should not question the principle of asset return, but question how to do it, how to make sure the money is used in the right way—the management of returned assets. There are ways to do this.”

Jean Pesme

Coordinator of The World Bank Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative

Sue the market’s rich; rob the world’s poor
“We don’t want to convey the impression that we are critical of the current enforcement actions,” said Jean Pesme, coordinator of the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative. “There will be no progress otherwise, and the fact that they are using the tools they have is important. Where we are raising questions is how much is done from a U.S. perspective, for example, and not from the perspective of the affected countries.”

The World Bank/UN position is that the countries where the corruption occurs are in the weakest position to begin with, and there is a lack of awareness among the world’s most powerful legal entities, represented by the fact that they do not actively seek ways to return more of corruption settlements.

“The point is that it is essential to bring facts and better understanding here and push the envelope,” Pesme said. “Everyone should pay more attention.”

Pesme views the problem in classic economic terms: There is a supply of corruption coming from corporations operating around the globe, and a demand for bribes from the affected countries. The current enforcement process primarily attacks the supply while leaving the demand untended. And it’s not solely money from settlements, but information-sharing across jurisdictions that needs to improve so local government can open their own investigations.

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“If you continue to go after this in the U.S. or U.K. and don’t open cases against officials in developing countries, you don’t address the root problem on the demand side,” Pesme said. “This needs to be collectively attacked. When only the Western companies are punished, it leaves the guilty party in the affected country out of the bargain,” he added.

The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.

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Critics say leaving the affected country out of the bargain is exactly what the FCPA was set up to do. Ronald Rotunda, a law professor and constitutional law expert at Chapman University, said the purpose of the FCPA is to protect U.S. investors. For example, if a publicly traded company in the U.S. is doing very well in an overseas market but the reason for its performance are bribes that investors don’t know about, the FCPA protects the interests of those investors. And that doesn’t leave room for any settlement money to be sent back to a country where the corruption occurred, Chapman said.

Pesme said the original intention of laws like the FCPA are fair points to make in this debate; however, he pointed to the U.N. Convention Against Corruption (2003) as an equally important guiding principle to which countries including the U.S. have pledged support.

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“The U.N. convention’s fundamental principle begs the question of how do you bring together all of these objectives,” Pesme said. “The FCPA may have been created for investors and the U.S. citizenry, but I think now because of the U.N. convention, it’s a new lens, and that’s the important point,” Pesme said. “I’m not saying all monetary penalties should go to the affected countries, but there is an additional objective to be pursued related to settlements. We are flagging at least an apparent disconnect between the original objective of the FCPA and what is now called upon by the U.N. convention.

The ultimate bribe
For Rotunda, such debate obscures the fundamental problem: Putting money from bribery settlements back into a country where corruption is widespread may be the ultimate spur to more corruption, incentivizing the bad behavior and encouraging more of it.

“It sounds to me like The World Bank is thinking of ways to give away other peoples’ money. The result of all this will be that foreign countries are richer, Swiss bank accounts get fatter, and customs officials have their ‘work’ as usual.”

Such a situation would be the ultimate bribery irony, but it also echoes a typically paternalistic view from the West about the developing world’s inability to get its own act together, and Pesme said it assumes a level of naiveté on the part of The World Bank and UN that is misplaced.

“Beyond the FCPA, it is possible to bring together the antibribery objectives and asset return,” he said. “We are not completely naive, and we are working with a lot of these countries, and we are not just saying only financial sanctions will do more but that the affected countries need to do more. … If you just send money back and don’t do anything, indeed, they wont change.”

How returned assets are used is critical in terms of benefiting the development of a country. “We should not question the principle of asset return, but question how to do it, how to make sure the money is used in the right way—the management of returned assets. There are ways to do this,” Pesme said.

In fact, the study cited a case involving bribery of officials from the Haitian national telecom company, Haiti Telecom. The Haitian government relied heavily on Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service resources and the case was tried in the U.S. But a U.S. court stated that the money recovered should go to the victim before court fines and costs were paid. The government of Haiti is referenced in the sentencing transcripts as the victim of the scheme. Whether or not any payments to Haiti have been made was unknown at the time The World Bank/UN report was finished.

By Eric Rosenbaum,



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#India – Family receives death threats from Asaram’s supporters #Rape #Vaw #Justice

According to the lawyer of 16-year-old victim of Asaram sexual assault case, supporter of the self proclaimed  godman Asaram are giving life threat to the father of victim. Lawyer of victim family released audio tapes.

Jodhpur: The father of the schoolgirl who accused Asaram Bapu of sexually assaulting her has alleged death threats from the spiritual guru’s followers. Alleged phone recordings of the threats are expected to be produced as evidence in court today.

The 75-year-old godman’s custody was today extended by 14 more days. He has been in jail since September 2.

“The father of my client says they are constantly facing death threats. He mailed me an audio clip in which it is very clear that Asaram’s followers are threatening them and intimidating witnesses. The family feels unsafe,” said Manish Vyas, the teen complainant’s lawyer.

The 16-year-old girl, who used to live in Asaram’s ashram in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara district, has accused the guru of forcing himself on her at his ashram in Jodhpur, and threatening to kill her and her parents if she reported him.

The self-styled godman was arrested on September 1 in a dramatic late night crackdown at his ashram in Indore, Madhya Pradesh and was flown to Jodhpur.

His aide Shiva, who is reportedly a key witness in the case, is also in judicial custody. He is accused of taking the girl to Asaram Bapu on August 15. The guru had allegedly told the girl’s parents that he would exorcize her of evil spirits.

The police also want to question another Asaram aide Shilpi, the warden of the hostel where the girl stayed. She had filed for an anticipatory bail, which was rejected last week.

The religious preacher has denied the allegations of sexual assault and says he never spent any time alone with the teen complainant. He told the police he met her and her family as part of a large gathering that came for his ‘satsang’ or discourse.

His son, Narayan Sai has claimed that the girl is “mentally ill.” He said Asaram did spend over an hour in a room alone with her, but committed no crime.

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  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="" target="_blank"> #India – What has changed since December 16 #Rape #Vaw
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#Delhigangrape – Why don’t people first control their daughters?: Defence lawyer #Vaw #WTFnews

Written by: 

Published: Friday, September 13, 2013,

'People should control their daughters'

New Delhi, Sept 13: After the death sentence of the four rape accused in the Nirbhaya gangrape case, the one who has topped the news charts is the defence lawyer AP Singh, but for all the wrong reasons. After his hysterical presentation of the Nirbhaya case, invoking the ideologies of Gandhi and Buddha, the defence counsel now blames political pressure. “It is regrettable that the judgement in the case of the December 16 gangrape has been completely dictated by the government. The judge – without giving it due thought and under political pressure, without considering evidence or witnesses – has handed all four convicts the death sentence,” he said. Contesting the reasoning of the trial court, he further said,”During the time I have to appeal – in the next 2-3 months – if there is no rape in this country I will not appeal in the High Court. But, if rapes take place then I will appeal in the HC.” But he does not stop at that. After the sentencing, the counsel said that he would move the High Court as the sentencing was made under the pressure of the home minister Sushilkumar Shinde. But what outraged the media and the people was his unsympathetic statement onNirbhaya and his sharp remarks on her personal life. A tweet by India today says,”Why don’t people first control their daughters? I’d burn my daughter alive if she was having pre-marital sex,roaming around with her boyfriend at night”. It is rather unfortunate that while the entire country is rejoicing justice, its very representative is making such statements.

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#India – Marriage officer humiliates HC woman lawyer #Vaw #WTFnews #Womenrights

, TNN | Jun 15, 2013,

Marriage officer humiliates HC senior lawyer for late marriage
How can you think of getting married at this age? The officer told a shocked Nirmala, who charging him with objectionable and unwarranted conduct.
JABALPUR: What has age to do with marriage? Plenty, if one happens to be a woman in Madhya Pradesh. Only, senior lawyer in MP high court, Nirmala Raikwar, learnt it the hard way.

When, along with her friend and fiance Ramesh Raikwar (younger in age incidentally), she appeared before additional collector and marriage officer, Jabalpur, Sheelendra Singh, with her application for a court marriage, Singh publicly not only remonstrated her for choosing to tie the knot when she was already past her prime and also mocked Ramesh over his poor choice for a bride.

How can you think of getting married at this age? The officer told a shocked Nirmala, who charging him with objectionable and unwarranted conduct, has filed a complaint in the court of judicial magistrate first class even as MP High Court Bar Association has taken up her cause. Narrating the incident to TOI, Nirmala said that she had applied for a civil marriage on March 3 and notices were served thereafter on March 12. On May 24 she, along with Ramesh and her junior colleagues, arrived in the office of the marriage officer for fulfilling the formalities.

“Singh examined me closely and demanded to know my age. It was not a very polite question and I said the age is mentioned in the documents lying on the table, please check it out,” Nirmala said.

Bar association demands action, warns of agitation

Bar association has demanded action against Singh and warned that lawyers’ would launch an agitation if the issue was ignored by authorities.

Meanwhile, admitting that the additional collector had no business to behave in such a manner, Jabalpur divisional commissioner Deepak Khandekar said he was probing the matter and would take action if allegations were found true.


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Punjab: 6-Year Old boy Singed With Cigarette Butts by Father #Torture #WTFnews

Patiala | Apr 01, 2013, Outlook

A six-year-old boy was allegedly singed with cigarette butts and slashed with a shaving blade by his father who inflicted injuries all over his body.

The harrowing tale of torture was narrated by the child himself in a local court, hearing a divorce case of his parents.

The court was shocked and dismayed to see injury marks on the body of the child and ordered the police to get the child medically examined in the local Government Rajindra Hospital.

The child told the doctors yesterday that his father Baljit Singh inflicted injuries all over his body.

There were about 16 blade cut marks on different parts of his body, doctors said, adding his back had burn marks caused by cigarette butts.

The parents of the child had filed a divorce case and the court had earlier given custody of the child to the father.

It also directed the accused that the child would be allowed to meet his mother once every month.

When the boy insisted on meeting his mother, Singh was so annoyed that he started torturing the child.

A case has been registered against the accused Baljit Singh at the Patiala Sadar police station under various sections of the IPC, police said, adding, efforts are on to arrest him.


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Super Blogger and friend Vidyut Kale gets a take-down notice for exposing corruption #stopitrules

Sign the petition against IT Act, 2011
A  Super blogger,  and a super duper  friend Vidyut Kale had written a post about the raid on the Belvedere yacht party, where she also exposed a history of financial misdealings by Lt Col (retd) Gautam Dutta and Anju Dutta of Marine Solutions, the url in question is  sailgate-the-party-that-wasnt. She has received a take down notice for her article being defamatory. She says that the IT Rules are so arbitrary that she has no chance to defend herself against the takedown, because no explanation or even verification of the premise of the take down notice being correct is required. Anyone getting the takedown noticeis legally required to take their content down within 36 hours or they lose protections as intermediaries.
While she is also the author, her position as the owner of the blog makes her vulnerable to these threats if her blog is to survive. She has no experience of fighting court cases, and can’t afford a lawyer, while the persons sending her the notice have a large law firm at their command. It is not defamation if her content is provable through RTI documents, but to prove it, she will have to violate the IT Rules, lose protection and fight several years in court – to save a post that exposes corruption in sailing on technicalities lawyers can exploit for people with the money to throw, while bloggers can be victimized out of any serious truth seeking by the simple virtue of not having enough money.
This is the same blogger that blogged to draw attention to the Keenan and Reuben murders when mainstream media had reported the story and let it go. Her efforts led to large scale media attention that helped the poor families get attention to their case and prevent the killers from going scot free. This can be verified by searching for Keenan and Reuben, and her blog – is one of the top results. Two posts she did compiling news coverage was extensively refered to by others covering the case. She raised questions that were important to not be ignored.
She has also reported on and followed the case of Naina Singh’s dowry death, where the police were refusing to file an FIR. She created a group of people to support Naina’s mother as well as found local lawyers (Delhi) who would help her approach courts to get directions for filing an FIR. The FIR was filed five months after Naina Singh’s death.
She has blogged extensively on issues of national interest, freedom of speech and human rights.
In reporting stories from the RTI documents related to sailing scams she was again covering an area that is not big enough for mainstream media, but an important leak of money as well as integrity for the country. Not to mention the illegal practices around sailing making it a security risk through norms of “looking the other way”.
This blogger, who is a housewife and has little income is at serious risk of being attacked by a team of seasoned lawyers with money to burn. for daring expose corrupt practices. This is a very concerning sign for freedom of speech and whistle blowing in our country. Any media attention highlighting her situation and precarious situation of smaller content producers in India like bloggers, independent artists, cartoonists, etc and the role played by the IT Rules will go a long way in protecting their rights and drawing attention to their victimization.
MP P Rajeeve is moving a motion in the Rajya Sabha for the IT Rules to be annulled for being unconstitutional, but without appropriate attention, it may not happen or may be too late for many like her.

Please extend your support to her twitter–@vidyut

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