Saturday 26 June, 2010 – Vision First has marked the 2010 United Nations International Day for the Support of Victims of Torture with a panel discussion on the Protection of the Rights of Torture Victims in Asia and Hong Kong.
In partnership with Asian Human Rights Commission, hosted by the University of Hong Kong and streamed live on the internet by the Professional Commons via Community TV, the five panelists delivered their perspectives on human rights violations of citizens, asylum seekers and refugees in Asia.
Panelists were Mr Mark Daly – Human Rights Lawyer at Barnes and Daly Solicitors, Mr Brian Barbour – Chief Executive of Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre (HKRAC), Mr Richard Tsoi – Community Organiser, Society for Community Organisation (SoCO), Mr Bijo Francis – Program Officer (India), Asian Human Rights Commission and Mr Baseer Naweed – Program Officer (Pakistan), Asian Human Rights Commission.
The panel outlined Hong Kong’s mechanisms for handling torture and asylum
claims, detention facilities and the treatment of refugees by the authorities, and Hong Kong’s political position and responsibilities having not signed the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention.
The panel also outlined the situation in India and Pakistan where harsh and unlawful police and military forces routinely torture citizens to extract information and enact revenge against opponents.
Video interviews and documentaries of torture survivors illustrated the severity of the inhumane treatment of vulnerable citizens across Asia. Cases from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Pakistan highlighted the crucial need to reform political systems to protect the human rights of all.
Q&A sessions engaged the panel in discussions from various perspectives including asylum seekers, international lawyers, law students and Hong Kong NGOs. A tragic personal story of torture reminded all those present with the reality of the situation, reminding us all of the gravity of human suffering. As hard as it is to speak about, and as hard as it is to hear, the sharing of personal experiences from Mr Naweed, as well as from those interviewed on film, stirs in listeners the motivation and sense of urgency to do whatever we can to help stop the use of torture.
Vision First is currently planning similar forums to promote the welfare and protection of rights for asylum seekers, refugees and torture claimants in Hong Kong.