Law and Society (BIGAMY LAWS IN INDIA)

Bigamy Laws in India

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Introduction: 

The polygamy is banned in most countries. In most countries, the second marriage is considered legally null and void, and prior consent from a prior spouse makes no difference to the validity of the second marriage. 

In India, There was no bar in customary Hindu Law to a man entering second marriage. However, the customary law was codified by the enactment of the Hindu Marriage Act in 1956, which declared  a second marriage ‘void ‘during the subsistence of the first one.

In India, bigamy is an offence against marriage and it is also criminal offence under Indian Penal laws. The bigamy law applicable to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists ,Sikhs,Parsis,Christians [except Muslims]. Bigamy is one of the ground to seek divorce under Hindu Marriage Act 1955.The second wife is entitlement for maintenance ,she is not entitle for property  rights. In August 2009, the Law Commission of India  recommended that  bigamy should be made  a cognizable offence. 
The Law  Commission of India said in its 227th report to the government “Muslim law on bigamy is gravely faulty and conflicts with true Islamic law in letter and spirit,”,  the unanimous view of chairman Justice A R Lakshmanan and members Tahir Mahmood and B A Agrawal. “Bigamy is not very common among Muslims and cases of men having more than one wife at a time are few and far between” said commission.
The practice of second wife more prevalent in Hindus in India as per statistics and some people regard it as status symbol, The Tamil Nadu C.M ,M Karunanidhi is good example of bigamous marriage. 
 
Indian Penal code 1860, Section 494. 

Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife: Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. Exception-This section does not extend to any person whose marriage with such husband or wife has been declare void by a Court of competent jurisdiction ,nor to any person who contracts a marriage during the life of a former husband or wife, if such husband or wife, at the time of the subsequent marriage, shall have been continually absent from such person for the space of seven years, and shall not have been heard of by such person as being alive within that time provided the person contracting such subsequent marriage shall, before such marriage takes place, inform the person with whom such marriage is contracted of the real state of facts so far as the same are within his or her knowledge.

 
What is Bigamy?

A person commits bigamy when he/she:
  • When  husband or wife living,
  • marries ,but  such marriage is void,
  • by reason of its taking place during the life of husband or wife.
 
When is Bigamy offence ?

Bigamy is an offence  provided first husband or wife is alive. Section 5 of theHindu Marriage Act, 1955, clearly states that a marriage could be valid only if neither of the party has a living spouse at the time of marriage. Section 11 of the Act declares second marriage to be null and void.
Bigamy shall not apply if: 
  • the first husband or wife is dead, or
  • the first marriage has been declared void by the Court of competent jurisdiction, or
  • the first marriage has been dissolved by divorce, or
  • the first spouse has been absent or not heard of continually for a space of seven years. The party marrying must inform the person with whom he or she marries of this fact.
Religious Conversion for contacting second is also bigamy?

In Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India (1995 AIR 1531 SC), the Supreme Court held that a man who has adopted Islam and renounced Hindu religion, marries again without taking divorce from the first wife, then such marriage is not legal. The person shall be punished for committing bigamy under section 494 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Where to file complaint under Bigamy law-section 494?

The person aggrieved can file a case of bigamy either in court or at the policestation. The father of an aggrieved wife can also make a complaint under section 494/495 of the Indian Penal Code. A petition for declaring the second marriage as void can be filed by the parties of second marriage and not the first spouse.
Proof not required for for lodging complaints under Bigamy law
The Supreme Court has held that  while lodging a criminal complaint it is not necessary for the aggrieved party to prove that marriage ceremonies were performed as it is for the trial court to decide the veracity of the allegations
If person hides first marriage and contacts second marriage ?

Complaint for cheating can be filed under section 415 of IPC in case the person hides the fact of first marriage.

What is Punishment under the Act?
 
Bigamy is a non-cognizable offence. It is bailable and compoundable with the permission of court if the offence is committed under section 494 of the IPC. The punishment for bigamy is imprisonment, which may extend till 7 years or fine or both. In case the person charged of bigamy has performed the second marriage by hiding the fact of first marriage, then he shall be punished with imprisonment of up to 10 years or fine or both. Such offence under section 495 is not compoundable. 
Attending 2nd marriage is abetting bigamy?

“It is a settled law that mere participation in the second marriage would not ipso-facto make the relatives or the participants liable for abetment to bigamy since abetment connotes an active suggestion or support to the commission of the crime.” ruled Delhi High Court.

In India ,Catholics could face bigamy charges after annulment, remarriage?

Catholics in India who remarry after the Church annuls a prior union could still face bigamy charges under the country’s laws.

Whether applicable to Schedule tribes?

This penal provision will not apply if the offender is a member of the Schedule Tribes.

Registration of Marriage compulsory?

In order to stop second marriages and child marriages ,the registration of marriages is made compulsory as directions of Supreme Court .
 
Bigamy &Hindu Law of Succession ?
 
As per  Hindu code, only the first wife is a legal heir of the husband while the second wife is not entitled to any share in the ancestral estate and, if the husband has died without leaving a will, even in his self-acquired property. Once the second marriage is declared null and void, the wife concerned cannot even claim maintenance as a matter of right. The high court of Bombay at Goa has held that the first wife is entitled to half the share while the share of the second wife in the property of the husband is 1/8th. While ruling that a second wife marrying in good faith has a share in the estate of her husband. The court ruled that in such cases the first wife gets half the share, the second wife is entitled to 1/8th of the share and the remaining 3/8th is to be shared among the children from both marriages.
 
Can children born out of wedlock  can inherit father ancestral property?

The Supreme Court has ruled that children born out of wedlock have the right to inherit their father’s ancestral property.In  Revanasiddappa vs Mallikarjun case ,  Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly ruled that children from a second wife had rights to their father’s ancestral property.

What is an live in relationship& applicability of bigamy laws?

The supreme court of India in Kushboo case virtually equated Live –in relationship to marital relationship. In another case ,the supreme court also said Children born out of live-in are not illegitimate.  “The live-in- relationship if continued for such a long time, cannot be termed in as “walk in and walk out” relationship and there is a presumption of marriage between them ..”Supreme Court in 2004 in the Rameshchandra Daga vs Rameshwari Dagacase ,where the maintenance rights of women in “informal relationships or invalid marriages” were upheld.These cases virtually encourage relationship outside-marriage,this created confusion in the minds of people. 

The law of bigamy is not applicable to live- in relationship as there is no legally contacted marriage. In order to prove 
offence of bigamy ,there should ample evidence to prove they have contacted second marriage without nullifying the first marriage.
 
 The Section 489 A  of Indian Penal Code ,1860,its  applicability  to second wife?
 
The section 498 A of IPC is not applicable to second wife.
Posted in Laws | 1 Comment

Stupid Government Policy Is More Dangerous than Terrorism

The Shocking Reasons that Americans Are Right to Be More Afraid of Bad Government Policy than Terrorism

Preface: I am not so much anti-government as anti-stupid policy.  (Moreover, the problem is not bad government or even corrupt corporations. The real problem is that the two have become intertwined in a malignant,  symbiotic relation.)

Multiple polls show that Americans are more afraid of our own government than of terrorists.

Sure, the government – not Al Qaeda – is taking away virtually all of our Constitutional rights.   And that includes reserving to itself the right to assassinate or indefinitely detain American citizens.

But stupid government policy is threatening us in other ways, as well.

The Police

For example, we’ve documented that you are 9 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist.  (Legal experts say you should never talk to the police).

Financial Crisis

The financial crisis will also lead to quite a few early deaths.  The government – together with Wall Street – caused the financial crisis … not Al Qaeda.  (Indeed, the government and big banks – not Osama – have destroyed free market capitalism in the U.S.)

Suicide

The number of deaths by suicide has skyrocketed recently, and many connect the increase in suicides to the downturn in the economy.

Around 35,000 Americans kill themselves each year.  Indeed, Americans are 2,059 times more likely to kill themselves than die at the hand of a terrorist.

And more American soldiers die by suicide than combat (the number of veterans committing suicide is astronomical and under-reported).

The wars that are causing the soldiers so much grief were planned 20 years ago … and are being fought for oil (and here) and gas.

Killer Drugs

According to a 2011 CDC report, poisoning from prescription drugs is one of the leading cause of death. Indeed, the CDC stated in 2011 that – in the majority of states – your prescription meds are more likely to kill you than any other source of injury. So your meds are thousands of times more likely to kill you than Al Qaeda.

After drug companies were busted for using fraudulent data for drug approval, the FDA allowed the potentially dangerous drugs to stay on the market.

And when one of the most respected radiologists in America – the former head of the radiology department at Yale University – attempted to blow the whistle on the fact that the FDA had approved a medical device manufactured by General Electric because it put out massive amounts of radiation, the FDA installed spyware to record his private emails and surfing activities (including installing cameras to snap pictures of his screen), and then used the information to smear him and other whistleblowers.

Contaminated Food

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control  show that Americans are 110 times more likely to die from contaminated food than terrorism. And see this.

Yet the government is working hand-in-glove with the giant good companies to dish up cheap, unhealthy food.

The government’s response to the outbreak of mad cow disease was simple: it stopped testing for mad cow, and prevented cattle ranchers and meat processors from voluntarily testing their own cows (and see this and this).

The EPA recently raised the allowable amount of a dangerous pesticide by 3,000% … pretending that it won’t have adverse health effects.

In response to new studies showing the substantial dangers of genetically modified foods – they’ve already been tentatively linked to obesitycancerliver failure and all sorts of other diseases (brief, must-watch videos here and here – the government passed legislation more or less pushing it onto our plates.

When BP – through criminal negligence – blew out the Deepwater Horizon oil well, the governmenthelped cover it up (and here).  As just one example, the government approved the massive use of ahighly-toxic dispersant to temporarily hide the oil.   The government also changed the testing standards for seafood to pretend that higher levels of toxic PAHs in our food was business-as-usual.

Environmental Poisons

In fact, the government has long covered up environmental risks.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control – the lead agency tasked with addressing disease in America – covered up lead poisoning in children in the Washington, D.C. area.

The Bush administration covered up the health risks to New Orleans residents associated with polluted water from hurricane Katrina, and FEMA covered up the cancer risk from the toxic trailers which it provided to refugees of the hurricane.

And then there’s nuclear power.  The American government has:

Indeed, the archaic nuclear design used at Fukushima and throughout the United States was chosen solely because it helps to make nuclear bombs.

Sadly, radiation from Fukushima and U.S. reactors will kill some Americans.   The National Journalreports:

“Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancer from ingestion of fish.”

Indeed, one doctor claims that Fukushima had already killed 14,000 Americans 9 months after the accident.  We doubt her numbers … but it is clear that even low levels of radiation can damage human health.  Whatever the number, this was caused by the government … not Al Qaeda.

(The government also created a computer virus which threatens nuclear plants world-wide.)

Bad Government Policy Is Increasing the Risk of Terrorism

Oh and – by the way – the government’s actions are so idiotic that they are actually increasing the chance of a terrorist attack.

By Global Research.

Source: Global Research. 

Posted in Governance | 1 Comment

Cambodian Political History: Former PM Pen Sovann’s Left Perspective – Hostile to the Khmer Rouge and the Present Rulers

 

pen sovann

The recent history of Cambodia is little known, greatly disputed, and grim. The first liberation movement against French colonialism and its local puppets was disarmed as part of the 1954 Geneva accords on Indochina. The resulting regime of King Sihanouk in pre-modern peasant Cambodia was neutral in the United States war against Vietnam, but after U.S.-backed Lon Nol deposed Sihanouk in March 1970, President Nixon launched massive raids on what he termed “sanctuaries” in Cambodia. The bomb tonnage has been estimated at twice what had been dropped on North Vietnam, and the loss of Cambodian lives at half a million—more than five percent of the total population. U.S. Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, who visited Cambodia in 1975, described the wreckage as “greater evil than we have done to any country in the world.”*

Pen Sovann, Prime Minister of Cambodia in 1981 after the ouster of the Khmer Rouge regime and who is today seventy-seven years old, played a central role in Cambodian left politics of the 1970s and ‘80s. This short biographic sketch of Pen Sovann, who consented to a lengthy interview with the author and is quoted often in the following paragraphs, depicts a political history from a left perspective that is openly hostile both to the Khmer Rouge and the present rulers of Cambodia. We present it as an interesting contribution to a history on which no final judgments are yet possible. —The Editors

Pen Sovann’s political history stretches across much of the worst and most violent moments of modern Cambodian history and yet now he is hardly remembered by this generation. His picture was in every classroom across the country until one day “it just wasn’t there,” as Somaly, a former propagandist for the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, who was just a teenager in 1979, remembered.

Pen Sovann was born in Chan Teap Village on April 15, 1936, the year the first Khmer-language newspaper Nagaravatta started publishing. His family were simple subsistence farmers who worked the land year after year and were not educated much beyond the simple standards of the times. Although by no means well off, the Pen family was able to provide for themselves, seven children and both parents, without fear of starvation or going into debt, by the hard work of planting and harvesting rice. The family was atypical of most rural Cambodian families. All members of the family would contribute during harvest and planting. The children would be assigned different tasks throughout the year such as watching the cows, feeding the chickens, gathering wood, collecting fruit, catching fish or crabs, sewing clothes, and taking goods to the market. But all that ended on the day Pen Sovann’s father was seized by the French to work as a coolie, building bridges and dikes, staking out telegraph and telephone poles, and cutting timber. His absence from the family crippled them. Sovann said, “It was very hard on my mother. Very hard.” The first fires of hatred towards colonialism were kindled in the family once starvation began.

In March 1945, when the Japanese invaded Cambodia, leaving a skeleton staff of French in administration, Pen Sovann was himself seized by “the fascists,” as he called them, and forced to “manage and care take of cows.” The Japanese were “cruel,” and he was “angry, hurt and disappointed by the French but much more so by the Japanese,” who turned rice fields into cash crops.1 Once the Second World War ended in the Pacific on August 14, 1945, the French returned and a new spark of anti-colonial sentiment began to take shape in Sovann’s heart. He witnessed the renewed destruction of “the rights of the working poor, whose lives and liberty became even more restricted and controlled. They forced some to be coolies, some to be soldiers, and ground people down to their will.”

In his home Ta Keo province, Sovann said, “The French…knew that there was resistance by the working poor against the colonizers and their government, and that even when they were farming, they were hiding mines and other traps in areas frequented by French patrols, and so they would shoot indiscriminately at the farmers in frustration.”

Throughout the 1940s, a movement against the French, and against Khmer “puppets” of the French, became active. The movement was known as the Khmer Issarak (“Independent Khmer”), and in the early 1950s Prince Sihanouk began referring to all Issaraks as the Khmer Viet Minh, which was a title claimed only by guerillas along the Vietnamese border. The Issarak platform of operations centered on armed resistance to French rule, total national independence, and strong nationalism, although in the very beginning they focused mainly on anti-French propaganda in the then-Thai-controlled provinces of Siem Reap and Battambang. From the onset, there was strong Thai support for the movement, and in August 1946 the Issarak launched an attack on the city of Siem Reap from the Thai-controlled countryside, killing many French soldiers and occupying the ancient temples in the area before retreating a week later. Diplomatic pressure from the United States, coupled with Thai desire to be admitted into the newly founded United Nations, brought about the return of the two Thai-held provinces to the French. Yet support for the Issaraks by the Thai continued until the end of the 1940s.

The movement quickly grew nationwide throughout the post-world war years and became affiliated with a similar movement in both Laos and Vietnam. Throughout Eastern Cambodia, the Issarak were active in staging a heated guerrilla war against the French, often directly alongside their Vietnamese compatriots. One of Pen Sovann’s neighbors at that time was Ek Chhoeun. During the later rise of the Khmer Rouge and subsequent civil war (1968–1975), this man was known as “Ta Mok the butcher” and had a fierce reputation for ruthlessness and blood thirst. Ek Chhoeun was a high-ranking Issarak leader in Takeo province in the mid–1940s and was well known in the area for his involvement with the Issaraks, as well as for his outspoken anti-colonial sentiment. By 1950, at the age of fourteen, Pen Sovann readily joined the Issarak movement and was attached to Ek Chhoeun’s command. “I was trained in weaponry and a variety of political methods to resist and remove the French colonial administration from the country. Also to overthrow the influence the king had in village life and the oppression that went hand in hand from that.” Most of the armaments used by the Issarak were seized from the French. The greatest fear Sovann had throughout that period was for the safety and well-being of his family from reprisals. He stated that “once my whole family was put into prison, I had nothing more to be afraid of.” Even though his family was locked inside the French fortress in Takeo, he still made contact with them through a cousin—a soldier who happened to be stationed at the fortress.2

By 1949, direct French control over much of the administration of the Cambodian political structure had been relinquished to members of the royal government. Although still not declared an independent country, many of the daily decisions were made by Cambodians, with the French advising. This in turn began to hinder the growth of the Issarak movement, and created openings in a few Issarak units to French manipulation aimed at getting them to attack the Viet Minh, whom the French saw as a much more dangerous enemy. They were willing to supply and support these former enemies of their regime if they could be turned on “national” grounds against the primary enemies of the French. Although French support for the Issaraks was not all-encompassing, a small number of units did defect, and take up arms against their former Vietnamese comrades.

In April 1950, the First National Congress of the Khmer Resistance was held, and it voted to establish the United Issarak Front (UIF) and a proto-government called the Provisional People’s Liberation.3 The Central Committee was led by Son Ngoc Minh, considered one of the two key founders of Khmer Marxism, and three deputies including the well known Khmer Marxist Tou Samouth. Even though French influence was beginning to decline, the Indochinese Communist Party, Viet Minh, and the Khmer Issaraks continued to wage war against the “puppet” governments of Laos, South Vietnam, and Cambodia, all three of which were still effectively part of the French Empire up until and beyond the disbanding of the Indochinese Communist Party in February 1951. The Khmer membership of the Indochinese Communist Party formed the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party on June 28, 1951, led jointly by Son Ngoc Minh and Tou Samouth, and maintained a close relationship with both their Lao and Vietnamese counterparts. During that same month the Vietnamese Volunteer Army in Kampuchea began to fight alongside the United Issarak Front under a unified command. At the time the Indochinese Communist Party split into the Vietnam Worker’s Party, Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, and Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party, the first literature distributed focused on anti-colonialism. Sovann still remembers the first time he read Karl Marx: “It was June 1951,” he said, “and it was about the class struggle of the poor against the rich.”

Even with large shifts in political structure and the formation of new parties, the war against “the colonizers” continued unabated. The less than complete independence awarded Cambodia by the French on November 9, 1953, was disregarded, and the revolutionaries fought on until the Geneva Conference convened in May 1954 to settle the conflicts raging in Indochina. Even though the combined forces of the United Issarak Front and Vietnamese Volunteer Army in Kampuchea controlled and laid claim to more than one-third of the entire nation’s countryside, the UIF representatives Keo Moni and Mey Pho were strikingly excluded from the Conference. When a request was made by officials from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to include representatives of the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Issaraks, the head of the Cambodian delegation, Sam Sary, assertively claimed that the Issaraks did not constitute a government and was quoted as saying that they were “foreigners who are being manipulated by a foreign bloc.” The terms of the Indochina settlement stated that all Viet Minh forces would withdraw from Laos and Cambodia. However, the United Issarak Front were not granted regroupment zones as were their Vietnamese and Laotian partners, and instead were ordered immediately to disarm and prepare to take part in the national elections of 1955. This left a bitter feeling of resentment and disappointment towards the Vietnamese in the hearts of some Khmer revolutionaries—in particular those revolutionaries returning from France, such as Saloth Sar, Ieng Sary, and Noun Chea.

Ek Chhoun’s forces demobilized on July 27 and “buried their weapons, in event that the struggle would continue.” The Geneva Agreement stated that all Viet Minh had to be withdrawn within ninety days following July 23, and the demobilization of the Khmer Issarak took place at such a frenzied pace that it was nearly completed before the International Supervisory Commission began properly to function. A little over one thousand Khmer joined the departing Viet Minh and headed north with them to Hanoi to pursue further education in politics and revolution. Many of these left Cambodia due to fears of government reprisals and the belief that the revolution was unfinished. After 1970, many returned to fight for the revolution with the Khmer Rouge, as did Pen Sovann, who also left with the Viet Minh in 1954, and all but fifty-seven of these would survive the civil war and Pol Pot’s genocidal purges.4 On recollecting that time, Sovann stated, “My motivation [in leaving] was realizing that my country was still poor and exploited. So, I wanted to come back with an understanding and knowledge of how to change and rebuild the country.”

While the “Hanoi 1,000,” as the Khmer who joined the Viet Minh were known, were receiving military, political, ideological, and economic training, the radical movement back home was going through their own “era of political struggle,” as certain Asian scholars have called it. This era lasted from the conclusion of the Geneva Accords in 1954 to the peasant insurrection in Samlaut, Battambang in April 1967, which can be seen as one of the first acts of the soon raging civil war. Throughout the early 1950s before “independence” in 1953, many new political parties were formed, vying for power within the political freedom permitted by the French and hoping to repeat their success at winning assembly seats in the national elections of 1951 just as they had in 1947 and ‘48. These parties were: the Democrats, a party hated mutually by the French and Sihanouk for their populist platform, emphasis on independence, and seemingly large following among the educated and intellectuals; the Liberals, a party with no national program and an eagerness to collect French subventions; the Victorious Northeast, a party ruled by the overlord of Siem Reap province, Dap Chhuoun; and the Renovation Party, a monarchist party founded in 1947 as a counter to the “radical” ideas of the Democrats, which included Lon Nol, the president of the Khmer Republic from 1970 to 1975. There were also many other small parties involved in electioneering for the 1951 elections, but no parties except those mentioned won any seats in the national assembly.

For those involved in the revolutionary struggle, the elections were a show put on by the French for progressive window-dressing. It was not until the demobilization of the Issarak and the exit of most Viet Minh units in 1954 that a truly revolutionary party was created, legitimately, as a counter to the elitist and monarchist parties. It was called the Ganapak Pracheachon, the People’s Party, and members would later constitute a distinct group of people targeted and purged under Pol Pot in the 1970s. Although many individuals of the movement had gone underground, many also chose to conduct the political struggle within the framework of a newly independent Cambodia. By 1955 and the approaching national elections—a requirement of the Geneva Accords—Prince Sihanouk’s influence over the political structure was deeply threatened by a Democrat Party that had become strongly anti-royalist and anti-American with the influx of young members throughout 1953 and 1954. It was during this time of political change that many of the French-educated students began returning to Cambodia, including Saloth Sar (later known as Pol Pot), who “was involved with the movement in a way, but he did not work together with the regular anti-French movement. He chose a different methodology, which was the one he received through his time in France, and so when he returned he came to fight and implement that particular ideology on Khmer soil.”5

Pen Sovann’s education at that time, through affiliation with the Indochina Communist Party, the United Issaraks, and the Khmer People’s Revolutionary party, was much more centered on classical Marxism-Leninism as well as anti-colonial and anti-bourgeois studies. In meeting someone such as Saloth Sar, who had just returned from the complicated political arena of Europe, it would have been noticeable that his political education differed widely from Sovann’s own. “My first impression of Saloth Sar, when I met him in 1950, was that he was an easy-going, humble, friendly Cambodian with good morals. But when he became a staunch Maoist years later, he changed from a rabbit to a tiger.”

Fearing a loss of political power, Prince Sihanouk decided to circumvent the entire electoral process in 1955, and used his monarchist privileges to call for a referendum among the Cambodian people. The referendum gave the Cambodian voters the choice of voting for the King, “if you love him,” and voting against the King, “if you don’t love him.” Once all the votes were tallied up, there were 925,667 votes notched for the King and a near-insignificant 1,834 against. The results empowered Sihanouk to tackle his political opponents and within hours he had ordered the arrest of many editors of Cambodian newspapers. Those arrested had questioned his claim to have single-handedly won independence in 1953, as opposed to the much more realistic independence won through the Geneva Accords of 1954. The arrests were a precursor to the much wider purges to come after Sihanouk abdicated the throne and his “Buddhist socialism,” Sangkum Reastr Niyum, evolved into a strong political force. By the time Pen Sovann formally joined the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party on July 27, 1958, much of the left-wing had been physically liquidated at the behest of Prince Sihanouk, and the remaining members fled either deep into the jungles or to Vietnam. Quite a few of those who survived to see the creation of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in January 1979 claimed that Sihanouk was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths nationwide.

The difficulties in the revolutionary movement, after the elections of 1955, centered on how to conduct their struggle and survive, and the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party was decimated by the end of 1950s, leaving only Tou Samouth in the highest levels of the party. A secret party congress was held in Phnom Penh, at the train station, on September 30, 1960. Saloth Sar (Pol Pot) and Ieng Sary used the weakness of the surviving party to infiltrate the central committee, alongside Nuon Chea, who became deputy to Tou Samouth. This was a dramatic change in party membership, and further, the name of the party was changed to the Khmer Workers’ Party. The party veterans and the French-educated (later Khmer Rouge) members differed widely on perceptions of the current political state. The veterans tended towards a view of Sihanouk’s neutrality and anti-imperialist stance as positive for the struggle of socialism in Indochina, whereas the Pol Pot clique were aggressively opposed to Sihanouk’s regime in toto. Tou Samouth, Secretary-General of the Khmer Workers’ Party, disappeared in 1962, leaving a power vacuum which Pol Pot filled with those close to him.6 By 1972, Son Ngoc Minh, one of the last original revolutionaries who helped found both the United Issarak Front (1950) and the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party (1951), died in Beijing, China, while undergoing medical treatment for high blood pressure at Ieng Sary’s insistance.7 The deaths of Minh and Samouth removed the “last true internationalist Marxists from leadership, leaving a group of ultra-nationalist, extreme Maoist, racists to seize control of the party under the guise of revolutionary politics,” in the view of William Morrison, a longtime resident of Cambodia and political commentator. These extremists would later terrorize the entire nation with their talk of the great “Angkorian past.” The world would come to know them as the Khmer Rouge, a term most likely coined by Prince Sihanouk when speaking of the two major political forces opposing him in the 1960s. (The other was the Blue Khmer, the right-wing equivalent to the “Red” leftists.)

While the era of “political struggle” was ending and fading into that of “armed struggle,” Pen Sovann had risen to the rank of major in the North Vietnamese Army and spent many years in military school and studying politics. By the time the peasant rebellions of 1967–1968 occurred, Sovann and many of his comrades in Vietnam, and within the Khmer Worker’s Party, opposed the political line of the more extremist elements of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge supported, and some of their opponents claim stirred up, the peasants to a premature rebellion in Samlaut that was later brutally suppressed by the Cambodian government, which had been requisitioning rice from them to the point of starvation. This opposition was never forgotten by the Pol Pot loyalists who would later purge anyone they could without incurring the notice, displeasure, and wrath of the Vietnamese. Someone like Sovann could not be purged at that point, due to his rank and connections to Hanoi. However, by 1973 the Khmer Rouge would purge anyone they chose, believing the “armed struggle” was solely in their hands and not jointly shared with the Vietnamese.

Although the Khmer Workers’ Party—later changed again in 1966 to the Communist Party of Kampuchea—maintained the façade of brotherhood with their Vietnamese counterparts up until full-scale war erupted in late 1977, there were many instances of violence between the two, often initiated by the Khmer Rouge.8 Throughout the 1960s there had been much support from the Vietnamese with military training, supply routes, and arms transportation. By the time the civil war kicked off nationwide in 1968, with the Communist Party of Kampuchea declaring the era of “armed struggle,” there seemed to be a solid bond of fraternity between the two parties.9In February 1970, Cambodian government forces began shelling North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front camps and bases in the country. The Vietnamese leadership was very confused by this due to Sihanouk’s agreement to allow them sanctuary. Unbeknownst to the Vietnamese, he had also reopened a diplomatic channel to the United States and had ordered local supporters of the Vietnamese killed beginning in 1968. Once the Cambodian government began openly attacking Vietnamese units in the east in 1970, the Vietnamese eventually responded in full force and by the end of 1970 had four North Vietnamese combat divisions in the country. While the war raged on inside Vietnam and also in Cambodia, the political war reached a climax with the coup d’état of March 1970 that firmly put Lon Nol in power and deposed Sihanouk. The Prince was enraged at the audacity of his appointed Prime Minister and immediately went into an alliance with the Khmer Rouge, who he had been ordering killed at every opportunity, and released his famous radio broadcast appealing to “his people” to take up arms against the Lon Nol government and join the Khmer Rouge.

One day before the broadcast, Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong held a lengthy meeting with Sihanouk and gave his backing for the Prince’s desire to call for armed struggle.10 The Prince’s longstanding popularity with many of the peasants quickly brought in hundreds of recruits which were formed into the Vietnamese-trained-and-armed army known as the Khmer Rumdo, or Liberation Khmers. By late 1972, much of the initial Vietnamese aid, in the form of combat soldiers, was recalled back to Vietnam, leaving the Khmer Rouge and Khmer Rumdo to operate on their own. The Khmer Rouge also used that opportunity to disarm many of the Khmer Rumdo, purge Khmer returnees from Vietnam, and hold anti-Vietnamese demonstrations. When Khieu Samphan was asked by a North Vietnamese diplomat about the disarmament and killings, he replied that it was “a CIA plot.” By that point Lon Nol’s military force had been shattered by the North Vietnamese, and much of the countryside surrounding the cities was in the hands of insurgent armies.

Pen Sovann stated that it was in “1970 when I returned to Cambodia that the Khmer Rouge leadership recruited me to work in radio which was broadcast out of Hanoi.” He worked under Chan Si, later his successor in the People’s Republic, and Khieu Thirith, the wife of Ieng Sary, in the Khmer Rouge’s Ministry of Information in charge of the Voice of the United National Front of Kampuchea.11 Because Sovann was working under the orders of the core leadership of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, he was forced to broadcast messages, appeals, and complete tasks he struggled with. “Their ideas were forced on me against my will. And they were against the cultural norms, as well! For example, not allowing the monks to fast as part of their Buddhist calling, forcing people to eat together in groups, and not calling your mother and father ‘mother’ or ‘father,’ but having to call them ‘friend mother’ or ‘friend father’. Ridiculous! Or husbands and wives calling each other ‘friend older brother’ or ‘friend younger sister.’ Those things do not fit with Khmer customs, and the things that were not according to Khmer custom, the real heart of the Khmer, I was against!” When asked if he ever openly criticized the party leaders he said, “Yes, openly. Openly! I pointed in the face of Ieng Sary and Ieng Tharith. At three o’clock in the afternoon on December 22nd, 1972, I said, ‘both of you are being treacherous to your nation!’”12Sovann knew at this time he could never return to Cambodia while the Khmer Rouge were in control of the party and it is fortunate that he was safe in Hanoi where the radio station was broadcast.

In 1974 Sovann formally broke ties with the regime he had worked for since 1970, and resigned from his position in the Ministry of Information. Through his continued involvement in writing and information sharing between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese, he was kept abreast of all developments in the conflict, even through the period of “the year zero” (1975–1978). When asked if, due to his well-placed position regarding information, he knew of the plan to empty the cities upon Khmer Rouge seizure of power he replied in the affirmative and stated, “I was angry at Ieng Sary and Ieng Tharith, and those with them. When they came [to Hanoi], I stood against them both personally, as a Khmer, and politically.”13

Relations quickly soured on the ground between the Khmer Rouge and their Vietnamese comrades almost immediately after Phnom Penh was taken in early April 1975.14 Fighting broke out between pro-Vietnamese Khmer units and Khmer Rouge, even while the capital was being secured, but it was not until approximately a year after the war had ended that the large-scale slaughter of those who had disagreed with or opposed Pol Pot began. When the premier of a newly unified Vietnam queried Pol Pot, during a visit of his to Hanoi, about the border raids and rumors of Vietnamese killed, he replied: “the soldiers don’t know what they are doing,” implying that it was a simple misunderstanding and not part of their party line. The clashes continued until large-scale border raids by Khmer Rouge into Vietnam began, and hundreds of civilians were butchered. Sovann said that, since his resignation in 1974, he had been trying to convince the Vietnamese party leadership that “the Khmer Rouge were killing their own people and that one day Pol Pot would invade Vietnam. It wasn’t until 1977 that they believed me and asked me to select people in the border areas who were dissatisfied with the Khmer Rouge and were willing to go to Hanoi for training.”

Savonn said it was difficult for him to recruit Khmer to fight Khmer. “For me, it was really hard. Heng Samrin and Hun Sen were Khmer Rouge soldiers. Chea Sim was in the Khmer Rouge organization. All the ones who were involved in the infighting of 1978 were Khmer Rouge.”15

Pen Sovann was a founding leader of the Kampuchean United Front for Salvation on November 25, 1978. On January 1, 1979, the United Front, along with divisions of the People’s Army of Vietnam, invaded Democratic Kampuchea and freed the people from what the Front’s President Heng Samrin called a “neo-slavery regime that has nothing to do with socialism.” The liberation of the country from the “Pol Pot–Ieng Sary clique”—as the Khmer Rouge were called during the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, from 1979 to 1989—was concluded by January 7, now a national holiday. Most of the remaining Khmer Rouge soldiers were pushed deep into the jungle along the Thai border. Pen Sovann served as General Secretary of the Kampuchean Revolutionary People’s Party from January 5, 1979, until December 1, 1981, and Prime Minister from June 1981 until December 5, 1981 (which oddly enough was four days after he had been arrested and sent to Vietnam).16Although expressing gratitude to the Vietnamese for their cooperation and help, he consistently attempted to keep Le Duc Tho, the chief Vietnamese advisor to the new government of the People’s Republic, to his promise not to interfere in the internal affairs of Cambodia. Sovann says that Duc Tho’s promise was almost immediately broken and was a cause of tension between the two.

Later, Le Duc Tho visited the USSR and upon his return, Sovann was imprisoned in Ha Dong prison near Hanoi until 1988, after which he was kept under house arrest until 1992 when he was permitted to return to Cambodia.17 Between 1981 and 1984, many of Sovann’s comrades who had left with him in 1954 to train in Vietnam were also purged or imprisoned by the People’s Party. One individual that many believe was poisoned was Chan Si, one of Sovann’s longest and most trusted comrades, who had succeeded him as Prime Minster from 1981 to 1984.18

Knowing that Sovann is reported to have told other interviewers about his disbelief in communism by 1981, I questioned him at some length about Marx, Marxism, and the Khmer Marxist Tou Samouth. “I can still say that he (Marx) analyzed history correctly, but the ones who used it as a means for seizing power used it destructively. Their methods were wrong 180 degrees around.” As for Tou Samouth, Sovann said, “What he knew and spoke of in his speeches was correct. For the working class, he spoke what was true: that we want to come out from under the oppression of the rich is an undeniable truth. But those who attempt to implement their version of socialism practice it incorrectly. Most importantly, if the leadership uses it (Marxism) properly, then they will have the support of the people. If they are not following it, the people know it.”19

Today Pen Sovann is still involved in politics and has lent his support to many different opposition parties since his return in 1992. He has retained his solid personal relationship with two of the three leaders, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin, of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, who both thanked him on his return to Cambodia in 1992 for helping to establish them in politics and for all his contributions made to the Khmer people. When asked a few final questions about his future in politics, his goals, and what he wants future generations to remember, Sovann said, “Well, I’m getting older. But my goals are to see the leadership changed and power given over to the people. The people need real actual rights. These are my only desires.”

Sources

The research for this biography has principally come from interviews with survivors, former Khmer Rouge and People’s Republic of Kampuchea soldiers, Pen Sovann himself, as well as the following books:

Chanda, Nayan, Brother Enemy (New York: Macmillan, 1988)

Chandler, David P., Brother Number One (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2000)

Chandler, David P., The Tragedy of Cambodian History (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1994)

Kiernan, Ben, How Pol Pot Came to Power (London: Verso, 1985)

Kiernan, Ben and Chanthou Boua, eds., Peasants and Politics in Kampuchea, 1942–1981 (London: Zed Books, 1982)

Slocomb, Margaret, The People’s Republic of Kampuchea 1979–1989 (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2003)

Vickery, Michael, Cambodia 1975–1982 (Boston: South End Press, 1984)

Footnotes

  1. * Carey McWilliams, Education of Carey McWilliams (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), 290.

Notes

  1. Sovann told the author, “the Japanese planted many Kapok tree farms and created oil-bearing tree plantations.”
  2. “We would go with a small platoon of soldiers to the area of the fortress. If any French were met on the way, they were engaged. If no resistance was encountered and we were able to get close enough without being spotted, a signal was given and my cousin would know to meet them at our prearranged location. We did this simply to get letters into the fortress.”
  3. During the Congress, Sovann was “acting as a bodyguard for important revolutionary figures in the independence struggle, and served as a messenger and secretary.” The minutes of the meeting were given to him “to hold, print out and distribute to all the provinces.”
  4. Sovann stated to the author that, “the people in Sihanouk’s government were the same ones as in the French-controlled government. They used their power in the same ways: to oppress the farmers and the poor just like governments do now in the twenty-first century.”
  5. Sovann claimed that Pol Pot returned to Cambodia from France with an ideology, focused solely on the role of the peasantry, that in time seemed to those involved in the anti-colonial struggle as akin to what later was frequently termed Maoism.
  6. When Sovann was asked about Tou Samouth’s death he replied, “I know what happened to him, and the exact day he died, and how they tricked him. Pol Pot was responsible. Once he died there was infighting and killing for power.” This assertion is much in dispute.
  7. Sovann claimed that Ieng Sary had a direct hand in Son Ngoc Minh’s death in China while he was undergoing medical care and this was the final blow to remove the “old guard” from the party and allow Pol Pot and his follower’s full control.
  8. According to a September 1970 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency report, Khmer Rouge troops fired on Vietnamese forces from behind while the Vietnamese were engaging a Lon Nol unit in Kompong Thom.
  9. Documents and communiqués in the Vietnamese party reveal a strong displeasure that the leadership of the Cambodian party was in the hands of “Maoists” and warranted “keeping a careful watch.”
  10. A few days after that fateful broadcast was made, Vietcong units moved into Eastern Cambodia playing the recorded message in villages and distributing leaflets of Sihanouk’s appeal.
  11. When asked about what his main tasks were at time Sovann replied, “I founded the Ranaksey radio station, led the whole radio project, and wrote radio programs. I also wrote the music for the radio station: songs such as “Victory in Kompong Thom,” which became a widely sung song and is still remembered today by old people.”
  12. The “violations of cultural norms” that Sovann protested against were not formally the party line at the time he led the radio project.
  13. “They produced those documents in 1974, which is why I started to decry them. Their policy was the ‘10/0’ policy for victory. That meant not having rich or poor, no religion, no customs, no money, no people, and no cities. That is what they meant by ‘10/0.’ To be involved in 10/0 was to be in agreement with their politics. 10/0 really just meant that there isn’t anything of the old ways! No religion, no morals, no customs…. No meetings, no markets…. Before the Khmer Rouge actually took power all of this was written up in documents.”
  14. Both political parties maintained formal relations up until 1977.
  15. Sovann said, “It was hard to know the condition of their heart. So how could the people fight against them? But, truthfully, the people were angry because the leaders had killed so many of their children, grandchildren and relatives. All of those men were seen as the ones who had been killing their countrymen, so I was afraid the people would come against me as well, so I used transparency and good morals in my politics to win over the hearts of people. They people were angry! The military had killed so many of their countrymen!”
  16. Sovann claims that his arrest was due to his “strong stance about Khmer self-reliance” and the fact that this was an irritation to Le Duc Tho.
  17. Sovann told the Cambodia Daily in 1997 that he holds two party leaders at that time, Hun Sen and Say Phouthang, responsible for his imprisonment.
  18. Chen Si died in Moscow, and when asked about the considerable controversy surrounding Chan Si’s death Sovann stated, “I know all about that matter! I know the hour, the day, the month, the year, and everything, but I cannot speak about it right now! I need to consider the safety of my family.”
  19. “The power they (current governments) use these days, is used differently than what was promoted before about the poor rising against the rich. The poor don’t use force these days. They are all poor alike, not unified politically. And the rich oppress them.”

 Author: Luke Young

Source: Global Research, Nov, 22, 2013. 

 

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U.N Maritime Tribunal Tells Russia to free Greenpeace Ship.

 

By Michael Hogan

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) – The U.N. maritime tribunal on Friday ordered Russia to release a Greenpeace ship and 30 people arrested in a protest against Russian Arctic oil drilling, most of whom have just been released from detention on bail.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg said it had accepted a request from the Netherlands to order the provisional release of the Dutch-registered Arctic Sunrise and its crew, which Russia detained on September 18 to international protest.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it would study the ruling, but that the tribunal had no jurisdiction over its prosecution.

It said it hoped the decision had been “objective” and had taken into account what it said were violations of international law by the Greenpeace vessel.

“The Arctic Sunrise ship was used as a tool to commit acts that are unacceptable under international law and Russian legislation,” the ministry said in a statement.

In Hamburg, Judge Shunji Yanai of Japan told the court the application from the Netherlands for a provisional release had been accepted by the votes of 19 judges to two. The court ruled that the ship and crew must be allowed to leave Russia, subject to the payment of a 3.6 million euro bond by the Netherlands.

Russian authorities have in the last few days ordered the release on bail of 29 of those arrested, although Greenpeace says it is unclear whether or not they will be allowed to leave Russia. The 30th, Colin Russell of Australia, had his detention extended until February 24.

The tribunal was set up to adjudicate maritime disputes under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both Russia and the Netherlands have ratified.

Western leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel have expressed concern to Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Russia on Thursday to show leniency while Western celebrities including ex-Beatle Paul McCartney have asked for the detainees’ release.

The court considered that international maritime conventions stipulate that governments may arrest ships in their exclusive economic zones only if they are engaged in non-permitted fishing or research activities, tribunal judge Ruediger Wolfrum told Reuters.

“This was not the case here,” he said. “I think we have reached a provisional decision that secures the rights of both sides.”

Wolfrum said the provisional order would have no impact on any future arbitration hearings in the dispute.

The 30 arrested over the protest, in which Greenpeace activists tried to scale the offshore oil rig Prirazlomnaya, part of Russia’s drive to tap Arctic energy resources, could be jailed for up to seven years if convicted of hooliganism.

Greenpeace, which says the protest was peaceful and the charges are unfounded, has been voicing alarm over the rush to develop Arctic energy resources, which it says threatens the region’s unique environment.

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said international law was an integral part of Russia’s legal system and its courts were obliged to implement the order.

The 30 arrested had initially been charged with piracy, punishable in Russia by up to 15 years in prison. Putin then said they were clearly not pirates but had violated the law.

Source: Reuters.

 

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China tests ‘Sharp Sword’ stealth drone

 

File photo of a Chinese drone

 File photo of a Chinese drone
 
Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:38AM GMT
 
China has tested its first stealth combat drone, a move seen as another step in the country’s military achievements.

According to state broadcaster CCTV, the test flight of the Sharp Sword unmanned aircraft lasted 20 minutes in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Thursday. 

The flight “implies that China has made the leap from drones to combat drones,” the broadcaster said, describing it the move of “major significance.” 

China Daily also said the flight shows “the nation has again narrowed the air-power disparity between itself and Western nations.” 

The daily added that the flight made Beijing the “fourth power… capable of putting a stealth drone into the sky.” 

The aircraft has been produced by two subsidiaries of Aviation Industry Corp of China, the daily said. 

China reached a milestone claimed by few countries – the United States, Russia and France – via manufacturing the heavy combat drone, according to Hong Kong-based military expert Andrei Chang. 

China’s first stealth fighter, the J-20, was unveiled in 2011, but it is not expected to go into service until 2018. The country’s first aircraft carrier entered service in September 2012. 

The test flight comes after Japan said in September that an unidentified unmanned aircraft had flown near the disputed islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing. 

China and Japan have long been engaged in a dispute over the sovereignty of the uninhabited islands. 

China maintains that the islands are an inherent part of its territory and it has indisputable sovereignty over them. The Japanese government, on the other hand, regards the islands as a part of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. 

Source: Press TV. 
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Hamid Karzai urges Afghans to let US forces stay another decade

 

Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:31 AM GMT

President says small military presence offers best hope of stability, but suggests pact should be signed by his successor

Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has reluctantly urged his countrymen to let US forces stay on in the country for another decade, saying that although there is no trust between him and Washington, a small American military presence is the country’s best hope of stability.

Addressing 2,500 delegates gathered for the Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, summoned to vote on a draft security pact between the two nations, Karzai urged the crowded hall to think of future generations when they decided whether to give the deal their seal of approval.

“Where is the advantage in this agreement? Why should we sign it?” he asked the hand-picked group of men and women from around the country. “It gives us the opportunity to move from our current situation to a stable situation.”

But in an unexpected move likely to unnerve US officials who want their future role settled, he suggested the pact should only be signed by a new president due to be chosen in an election nearly six months away. Karzai cannot stand again, but the 11 candidates to replace him had prominent seats at the meeting.

The Bilateral Security Agreement paves the way for up to 15,000 foreign troops, more than half of them American, to stay on in nine bases across Afghanistan until 2024.

Nato combat forces will leave at the end of next year, and the new agreement is vital to ensuring Afghans get the funds and training they need to support a relatively weak military. The US troops will also use their bases to chase al-Qaida and linked groups along the Pakistani border.

The deal has been highly controversial, with the final wording only agreed between Washington and Kabul hours before the delegates took their seats. But the Loya Jirga is expected to be more political theatre than real test of the accord, as Karzai looks to spread the political risk of signing off on a long-term US presence.

“What comes out pretty clearly when you talk to people who are on the organising committee or ordinary delegates at this thing [is that] pretty much everyone is in favour of the Americans having a troop presence. Not absolutely everyone, but there is a surprising consensus,” one western diplomat said. “If that’s the overwhelming picture, then surely Karzai is going to get that through in some way.”

The last-minute discussions on the draft came after Karzai demanded an apology from the US for past mistakes by the military and an absolute ban on foreign troops going into Afghan homes, both of which the White House refused.

It may have been heartfelt, as Karzai has long been a staunch advocate of barring western soldiers from Afghan houses, but it was also politically astute before a conference at which delegates include the relatives of civilians killed by both the Taliban and Nato forces.

The dispute gave him grounds to shift the focus of his speech away from the US demand that their troops have immunity from the Afghan judicial system, which is highly emotive, to the question of whether their troops can enter Afghan homes.

The Afghan president read out a letter he said came from the US president, Barack Obama, urging Afghans to vote for the deal, promising respect from his troops, and saying they would enter Afghan houses only in extreme circumstances when their own lives were at risk.

“We will continue to make every effort to respect the sanctity and dignity of Afghans, in their homes and in their daily lives, just as we do for our citizens,” the only section of the original English released by the president’s aides read. The US embassy declined to comment on whether the letter was genuine or provide a transcript.

Karzai said he had canvassed major powers in the region, including India, China and Russia, as well as the government of Pakistan and leaders of other neighbouring countries, and all of them except Iran had urged him to sign the security pact for the sake of Afghanistan’s future.

He finished what is likely to be one of the key speeches of his career with a familiar political appeal, to delegates’ concerns for their children. His own son, he said, had learned the words “ministry of defence” aged only four, after the building near the palace came under attack.

“In what country is that normal?” he said. “So it will be better for our future if we sign this agreement.”

Source: The Guardian

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China’s top court bans police from torturing suspects

 

File photo: China inmates
China is trying to reform its police and other security agencies

Chinese officials must stop using torture to extract confessions from suspects, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The court said on its official microblog that using “freezing, starving, extreme heat, fire branding or extreme exhaustion” to extract confessions was also illegal.

It is the latest in a series of moves aimed at reforming the Chinese police and other security agencies.

Last week, China said it was abolishing “re-education through labour” camps.

The system, which started in the 1950s, allowed the police to send anyone to prison for up to four years without a trial. It was almost impossible to appeal against a sentence under the system.

The new announcement comes a week after Chinese officials concluded a four-day, closed-door meeting in Beijing at which a number of reforms were agreed.

The Supreme Court has ordered lower courts to exclude evidence obtained by torture “in a bid to promote fair justice”, state-run Xinhua news agency says.

“Evidence must be valued,” Xinhua said, quoting a court document.

“The traditional concept and practice of a testimony being the most paramount should be changed, and more attention should be paid to examining and using material evidence,” the document added.

The document also makes clear that courts should remain independent, must follow legal procedure and should not become involved in police investigations, Xinhua says.

However, enforcing a ban on this behaviour will be difficult, says the BBC’s Celia Hatton in Beijing.

For years, the country’s judicial and law enforcement agencies have issued joint pledges to stop using torture or accepting evidence obtained through torture, but the practice appears to be fairly common, our correspondent adds.

“In the judicial system in China the public security system is by far the most powerful institution, and there are effectively very few checks and balances on how it exerts its power,” Nicholas Bequelin, of rights group Human Rights Watch, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

One of the more high-profile recent cases involving torture had to do with a Chinese official who died during questioning by Communist Party investigators in April.

State media reported that Yu Qiyi’s head was submerged under water several times during his interrogation for his alleged role in a corrupt land deal.

The investigators were eventually jailed after being found guilty of “intentional injury”, according to reports.

Sources: BBC News.

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