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Monday, October 31, 2005

Expert Medical Groups Intervene in Punjab Mass Cremations Matter

In May and June 2005, ENSAAF organized the Physicians for Human Rights and the Bellevue/NYU School of Medicine Program for Survivors of Torture to conduct a study of 127 families who survived the disappearance of a family member in Amritsar, Punjab. These cases draw from those pending before the National Human Rights Commission in the Punjab mass cremations matter. On October 24, 2005, PHR/Bellevue submitted their final report to the National Human Rights Commission.

The PHR/Bellevue assessment reveals a “pattern of intentional abuse by law enforcement officials among multiple family members,” demonstrating that the Commission needs to investigate and adjudicate the fundamental rights violations committed by Indian security forces, beyond the illegal cremation of the family member:

As a result of the death and illegal cremation of a close family member, most of
the individuals interviewed demonstrated severe psychological disorders
including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, with nearly half of
those interviewed continuing to describe these symptoms more than ten years
after the traumas occurred....Many participants described permanent impairments
and long-term disability related to the physical abuse inflicted by the
authorities during the time period surrounding the death and cremation of their
relative.

CIIP vs. State of Punjab has proceeded before the Commission for nearly nine years. The Commission, however, has not heard the testimony of a single survivor in the Punjab mass cremations matter; nor has it found a single security official or agency liable for the thousands of disappearances and extrajudicial executions leading to illegal cremations in Punjab. The Commission continues to flout international and domestic law by refusing to investigate the secret cremations, ignoring fundamental rights violations such as the unlawful deprivation of life and torture of family members. The PHR/Bellevue report should compel the Commission to investigate the physical and psychological trauma suffered by victim families, in addition to the murder and illegal cremation of their relative.

Read an article on the Oct. 18 hearing here.

[This entry is cross-posted on ENSAAF's blog.]


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