Human Rights Watch issues letter to NHRC

November 2, 2005 | Comments Off on Human Rights Watch issues letter to NHRC

On November 1, Brad Adams, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, issued a letter to the National Human Rights Commission regarding its upcoming decision on the Punjab mass secret cremations case.

The letter urges the NHRC to order a full accounting of the systematic abuses that occurred in Punjab, determine liability after detailed investigations into the violations, and provide compensation for surviving family members based on a detailed understanding of the scope of violations suffered by each individual

In almost nine years, the Commission has not heard testimony in a single case, or held a single security official or agency responsible for human rights violations. Further, at hearings in recent months, the Commission has indicated its intention to dispense with investigations into the violations altogether, and only determine whether the cremations occurred according to police procedure. This is an odd decision for a human rights body.

Another puzzling fact is that the NHRC has investigated and resolved other cases of human rights violations in the past nine years that the mass cremations case has been proceeding.

The letter also urges the NHRC to clarify that the November 2004 order of compensation is interim. This order announced a 2.5 lakh compensation award to each of 109 families in whose cases police admitted custody of next of kin, without determining individual responsibility, providing other reparatory measures, or inquiring into the facts as directed by the Supreme Court. The NHRC has a responsibility under international human rights law to make an individual determination.
The letter also mentions the report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture (Bellevue) as demonstrating that the deprivation of life occurred as part of a pattern of human rights violations that included intentional abuse among family members of the “disappeared.” 

This report should compel the Commission to investigate the deprivation of the right to life of the victim, and the physical and psychological trauma inflicted upon surviving family members…In its upcoming order, we urge the Commission to admit and fully weigh all evidence available, including the PHR/Bellevue report.
To demonstrate its intention to fulfill the mandate of the Supreme Court, the Commission must act to redress the violations of the rights to life and liberty suffered by thousands of families in Punjab. Its failure to do so is contributing to impunity, sending the message that perpetrators of mass crimes are more powerful than the Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission.


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