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Press Release

December 15, 2006

PHR responds to Indian National Human Rights Commission's rejection of independent assessment of abuses in Punjab

The following press release, excluding the background, was issued by Physicians for Human Rights on December 15, 2006.

CONTACT: Nathaniel Raymond, Senior Communications Strategist
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Cell) 617-413-6407
E) nraymond@phrusa.org
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Despite its duty to uphold international human rights law, the Commission rejected the assistance of international human rights groups and failed to fulfill its mandate.

The letter below is a response to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India’s rejection of an independent report prepared by experts from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the Bellevue/New York University School of Medicine Program for Survivors of Torture (Bellevue). The report was an assessment of the torture and trauma suffered by 127 family members of people who disappeared in Punjab, India between 1984 and 1995. Evidence suggests the missing family members were killed and illegally cremated by Punjab police and special operations forces conducting counter-insurgency operations against Sikhs in the region. Despite its duty to uphold international human rights law, the Commission rejected the assistance of international human rights groups and failed to fulfill its mandate.

The PHR/Bellevue report clearly showed that the families of the missing have suffered severe human rights violations, including torture, which have severely impacted the mental and physical health of the survivors. Ignoring the veracity of the independent report prepared by PHR/Bellevue experts, the NHRC made several false statements attacking the team’s professional credibility, including accusing the team of failing to file an affidavit with the report, which the team did file at the time. Additionally, the Commission claimed the report was “hopelessly vague” and “lack[ed] transparency”. In fact, the report, prepared by some of the world’s most renowned experts on torture and forensic evaluation, adhered to the highest standards of professionalism and scientific ethics.


Background: Please visit Ensaaf's legal advocacy program page to learn more about the Punjab Mass Cremations case. In May and June 2005, Ensaaf organized the PHR/Bellevue team to conduct a study of 127 families who survived the disappearance of a family member in Amritsar, Punjab. On October 24, 2005, PHR/Bellevue submitted their final report to the National Human Rights Commission.