Philippines Enacts New Anti-Torture Law
November 12, 2009 -
For the past year, Just Detention International has been working with advocates and government officials in the Philippines to raise awareness about the problem of sexual abuse in detention. Today, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo took an important step forward in addressing this type of violence by signing into law the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, following passage of the law by Congress in September.
The Act -- which imposes criminal penalties on perpetrators of torture -- explicitly recognizes all forms of sexual abuse in detention as torture. It requires prompt, impartial investigations into complaints of torture, mandates training for law enforcement on torture as a crime, and establishes a right to compensation and rehabilitation for victims of torture.
Sponsors of the law seek to ensure that no one, including detainees, is subjected to torture under any circumstances. Specifically, the law urges the government to comply fully with the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which the Philippines has ratified. Further bolstering the country's effort to end abuse in detention, the Philippines is expected shortly to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which requires signatories to open up all their detention facilities to external scrutiny.
Just Detention International considers external oversight of prisons and jails essential to the fight against sexual violence and urges the U.S. government also to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.