"Terrorism and extremism pose a grave threat to democracy and development. Government and authorities in our region and elsewhere have a moral duty to act firmly and quickly", said
Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, while inaugurating the International Conference of Jurists on Terrorism, Rule of Law and Human Rights, held in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, India, from 13 - 14 December (in New Delhi) and in Agra on 15 December 2008. The Prime Minister also stated that the fight against terror should not be targeted towards a group or a section of the society and highlighted the need to understand the relationship between human rights and the fight against terrorism, since the two concepts go hand in hand.
Other dignitaries present on the occasion were
Hon'ble Dr. H.R. Bhardwaj, Union Minister for Law & Justice, Government of India, and
Hon'ble Chief Justice of India, Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.
Hon'ble Dr. H.R. Bhardwaj, Union Minister for Law,
during his speech, mentioned about enacting a law specifically dealing with the terrorist activities. "The Government will very soon decide the contents of that law". He further mentioned that the law will not infringe upon Article 21 (Right to Liberty). "The law will be there with reasonable restrictions." Dr. Bhardwaj also cited examples of countries such as UK and US in the context of strengthening terror laws.
In his address,
Hon'ble Chief Justice of India (CJI), Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, sounded a note of caution against curtailment of civil rights and infringement on the fundamental rights of the citizens. He made a specific mention that everyone has a right to be defended, even if that person be a terrorist. The CJI also highlighted that the rule of law and human rights provide the bulwark of any democracy and should be fiercely guarded by its citizenry.
During the event, UNODC was conferred with the "
International Jurists Award 2008" by the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and was received by Dr. Sandeep Chawla, Director, Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, UNODC, on behalf of Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, UNODC. A high profile jury selected UNODC to receive this award for the organization's unique contribution in the field of
combating organized crime and promoting the rule of law.
UNODC Regional Office for South Asia conducted two working sessions, namely,
Combating Drug Trafficking, Consumption and Related Problems (working session no. 2 on 13 December 2008) and the
International Laws to Curb Human Trafficking (working session no. 18 on 14 December 2008).
The session on
Combating Drug Trafficking, Consumption and Related Problems commenced with the introductory remarks of Ms. Ashita Mittal, Officer-in-charge, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia. The session was co-chaired by Mr.Ram Jethmalani and Mr. M. M. Bhatnagar. Mr. K. C. Verma, Secretary (Security) Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, Dr. Sandeep Chawla, Director, Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, UNODC, Dr. Rajat Ray, Chief, Drug De-toxification Centre, AIIMS, N. Delhi, were the distinguished speakers.
Mr. Verma gave an overview/background of the drug scenario, with a focus on opium/ heroin and cannabis and Dr. Ray put forward points on the issue of drug trafficking and consumption, from a health perspective. He said that while dealing with the problem, there needs to be a focus on the drug supply as well as drug demand aspect. Dr. Chawla from UNODC pointed out that there is an international control regime for dealing with this issue, based on the three UN Drug Conventions, to orchestrate a joint response by the international system.
The working session on the
International Laws to Curb Human Trafficking was attended by around 200 participants.
The session started with brief presentations by -
• Dr. Geeta Sekhon, Project Coordinator, Anti Human Trafficking, UNODC - on the
International Legal Regime on Human Trafficking
• Ms. Manjula Krishnan, Economic Advisor, Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India - on the
initiatives by the MWCD to prevent and combat Human Trafficking, especially in women and children
• Prof. Manbendra Mandal, President, Action Against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children (ATSEC) - on Role of NGOs in preventing and combating human trafficking.
A group exercise was also conducted to sensitize the participants, especially the lawyers in private practice, towards the protection of the rights of the victim during a court trial, even as a lawyer defends his/ her client who may be a trafficker. The participants were also enlightened to the "re-victimization" of the woman/ child victim of trafficking during court procedures, which often results due to insulting, humiliating and intimidating questions put forth by defence lawyers.
The conference was attended by more than 1000 delegates, which included Hon'ble Chief Justices and other judges, law ministers, parliamentarians, bar leaders, chief executive officers of multinational corporations and law firms, bureaucrats, representatives from financial corporations, from India and other countries.The UNODC sessions were highly appreciated, quite evident in terms of the participation by the audience and the positive feedback.