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Ensaaf Dispatch

October 2007
Volume 4 Issue 3

Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch Release Joint Report

 Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch's new report, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India, has been covered in over 54 newspapers worldwide, generating wide press attention to the struggle for justice for disappearances and extrajudicial executions committed from 1984 to 1995...Continue »

High Court Upholds Convictions of Five Officers, Awards Life Sentences in Khalra Murder Case

On October 8, 2007, a division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld the convictions of Punjab police officers Jaspal Singh, Satnam Singh, Surinderpal Singh, Pritpal Singh, and Jasbir Singh, and acquitted Amarjit Singh of all charges...Continue »

Ensaaf Needs YOU!

Now is the time to help Ensaaf continue to document abuses, pursue legal cases, and organize survivors. With your help, the voices of the survivors have reached a world stage. Join one of Ensaaf's funder teams and become a part of the movement for truth, justice, and reparations...Continue »

Update: Punjab Mass Cremations Case

At its latest hearing on October 18 in the Punjab mass cremations case, the National Human Rights Commission indicated that it would not extend the operations of the Bhalla Commission to identify the remaining cremation victims...Continue »

Recent Events

Ensaaf participated in key events these past three months...Continue »

Twenty Years of Impunity: Second Edition

As the anniversary of the pogroms approach, we encourage you to learn more about these events and to discuss them with your friends and family, so that these crimes are not forgotten. The 2nd edition of Ensaaf's groundbreaking report is available online for $10 plus shipping...Continue »

Ensaaf Thanks Its Volunteers

In addition to three full-time attorneys on staff, Ensaaf relies on a dedicated network of volunteers who generously lend their time and talents to the organization. Ensaaf in particular would like to thank...Continue »

Ensaaf has Moved!

Please note our new contact info...Continue »

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Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch Release Joint Report

Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch's new report, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India, has been covered in over 54 newspapers worldwide, generating wide press attention to the struggle for justice for disappearances and extrajudicial executions committed from 1984 to 1995. The 123-page report, together with video testimonials and a photo essay, serves as a crucial wake-up call to India's institutions that encourage impunity for the state's role in murder and enforced disappearances. The report details the concrete steps the Indian government must take to hold accountable members of its security forces who killed, disappeared, and tortured thousands of Sikhs and provide redress to the survivors.

 The report, released on October 18, 2007, also highlights the pleas of survivors such as Dara Singh, the father of two extrajudicially executed sons, Mehal Singh and Gurmail Singh. In 2000, Dara Singh refused to accept compensation for the "illegal cremation" of one of his sons, Mehal Singh, demanding truth and justice.

"Money is not justice. The police murdered both of my sons, and they won't even admit that they did something wrong. They call my sons terrorists!...The government should give us copies of their records relating to the murder of my sons, so we can figure out what really happened."
-Dara Singh

Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch echo the demands of the survivors, calling for full investigations, prosecutions, and reparations that include responsibility for the harm inflicted upon the victim families. The report also summarizes the evidence against senior perpetrators, in particular indicting KPS Gill, then-Director General of Punjab Police, for gross human rights violations.

In response to the report, Gill stated: "The charges against me are one thousand percent frivolous. In last 15 years, they brought such charges against me and other officers, but none of them could be proved." This statement attempts to cover up the fact that as early as 1996, the Supreme Court of India found a "flagrant violation of human rights on a mass scale" had occurred in Punjab. Further, five of Gill's subordinates were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the abduction and murder of human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra. Moreover, testimony accepted at the trial of these subordinates discussed KPS Gill's direct involvement in the crimes against Khalra. Gill's denials cannot cover up the accepted reality of disappearances and fake encounters perpetrated under his command.

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High Court Upholds Convictions of Five Officers, Awards Life Sentences in Khalra Murder Case

 On October 8, 2007, a division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld the convictions of Punjab police officers Jaspal Singh, Satnam Singh, Surinderpal Singh, Pritpal Singh, and Jasbir Singh, and acquitted Amarjit Singh of all charges in connection with the murder of human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra. On October 16, 2007, the High Court increased the sentences of Satnam Singh, Surinderpal Singh, Pritpal Singh, and Jasbir Singh to life imprisonment. All five convicted officers now must serve life sentences.

Punjab police illegally detained, tortured, and murdered Jaswant Singh Khalra in October 1995 after he released findings of thousands of extrajudicial executions and secret cremations carried out by the police in Amritsar, Punjab. His investigations led India's Supreme Court to find a "flagrant violation of human rights on a mass scale."

"Taking the statement of witnesses in totality, we have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that Jaswant Singh Khalra was picked up from his house at the instance of SSP Ajit Singh Sandhu by appellants Jaspal Singh, Satnam Singh, Surinder Pal Singh, Jasbir Singh and Prithipal Singh. He was tortured at Jhabal police station and shot dead there."
-Punjab & Haryana High Court

On November 18, 2005, Additional Sessions Judge Bhupinder Singh in Patiala had sentenced Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Jaspal Singh and Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Amarjit Singh to life imprisonment for murder, seven years imprisonment for abduction with intent to murder, two years for destruction of evidence, and five years for criminal conspiracy. The court sentenced officers Satnam Singh, Surinderpal Singh, Pritpal Singh, and Jasbir Singh to seven years imprisonment for abduction with intent to murder and five years imprisonment for criminal conspiracy. Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ajit Singh Sandhu and DSP Ashok Kumar died during the trial of the case.

The convicted officers appealed their convictions. Four officers received greater prison sentences, while DSP Jaspal Singh remains sentenced to life in prison. The High Court, however, ruled that there was insufficient evidence against Amarjit Singh because the key witness who described Amarjit Singh's role in his statement to the prosecutors had turned hostile during the trial. Kikar Singh initially told the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that he saw Khalra in police custody at police station Kang on October 24, 1995, witnessed signs of torture on his body, and helped Khalra eat. After giving his statement to the CBI, Kikar Singh received security to protect him from the police. In an affidavit, however, Kikar Singh stated that police were pressuring him to turn against the prosecution by implicating him and his family in false cases. Two of the accused officers also raided his house, forcibly taking possession of his property in connivance with his security guard. After spending time in judicial custody, Kikar Singh eventually turned hostile.

Gill's Role

In coming to its finding, the High Court especially cited the testimony of Special Police Officer (SPO) Kuldip Singh. In his trial testimony, SPO Kuldip Singh described how he had been appointed to guard the room where Khalra was detained, and discussed the role of different officers, including the senior-most officer, Director General of Police (DGP) KPS Gill, in the abuses against Khalra. According to his trial testimony, the police took Khalra to SSP Sandhu's residence, where DGP Gill joined them and interrogated Khalra for half an hour. On the ride back to the police station, Station House Officer (SHO) Satnam Singh told Khalra to accept DGP Gill's advice and save himself. According to the Tribune, Justice MS Gill stated: "Kuldeep Singh is the star witness...We find his statement to be truthful, convincing and inspiring confidence. He initially was under fear, but at a later stage came out with the truth. He is an eyewitness to the gruesome abduction, murder and disposal of Khalra's body."

Khalra's widow, Paramjit Kaur Khalra, was represented by human rights advocate Rajvinder S. Bains.

Pending Issues

On September 6, 2006, Mrs. Khalra also filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court after the CBI refused to investigate and prosecute KPS Gill for his role in Khalra's abduction and murder. Ensaaf worked with attorney Bains to draft the petition and apply the international law doctrine of superior responsibility. The High Court declined to hear this petition, and instead, transferred the case to another bench.

Advocacy

Visit Ensaaf's page on advocacy pursued regarding the murder of Jaswant Singh Khalra. This page includes links to judgments and legal papers, as well as information on joint initiatives by international human rights organizations, including Ensaaf, Human Rights Watch, REDRESS, and the Center for Human Rights & Global Justice.

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Ensaaf Needs YOU!

Now is the time to help Ensaaf continue to document abuses, pursue legal cases, and organize survivors. Gurbachan Singh echoed many survivors when he told Ensaaf:

I have the right to truth and justice. I am ready to testify about the murder of my sons before any judicial body or commission.

Ensaaf is ready to help. With sound strategies, prominent international and domestic partners, and experienced staff dedicated to ending impunity and achieving justice in Punjab, all we need is your support to take concrete strides towards truth, justice, and reparations.

JOIN!

 You can donate at any level to become part of the movement for truth, justice, and reparations:

  • Advocate Team: Donate between $300 (or $25/month) to $1199 and receive our e-newsletter and updates, emailed publications, and a listing on our website.

  • Justice Team: Donate between $1200 (or $100/month) to $2499 and receive our e-newsletter and updates, a free hard copy of all publications, and a listing on our website.

  • Leadership Circle: Donate $2500 or more and receive our e-newsletter and updates, multiple free hard copies of all publications, a listing on our website, and quarterly donor-briefings from a co-director.

How You Can Help

With your help, the voices of the survivors have reached a world stage. However many families continue to wait for truth, justice, and reparations. The work has just begun! By making a generous tax-deductible investment in Ensaaf you will help:

  • Document more human rights violations and build evidence for accountability. Our recent report with Human Rights Watch is just one example of how Ensaaf has made huge strides in documenting disappearances and killings, as well as the effects these crimes continue to have on survivors. Together with video testimonials and a photo essay, the report received coverage in over 54 newspapers worldwide. So far, however, only a few thousand of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 disappearances and killings have been documented.

  • Hold more perpetrators accountable through legal action. Currently, Ensaaf is providing crucial legal assistance to three pending cases, representing the cases that have the potential to make the greatest impact for survivors. However, with additional resources, Ensaaf could provide expert legal assistance and advocacy for even more cases.

  • Empower more survivors to break the impact of impunity by giving them the opportunity to speak out about their experiences and advocate for their rights. Ensaaf invests substantial time in communicating with survivors and listening to their stories, so that we can effectively represent them at the international stage. With your support, we are also acquiring the technology to allow their stories to be heard directly through video testimonials posted online.

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Update: Punjab Mass Cremations Case

 In its October 9, 2006 order, which effectively closed the matter of police abductions leading to disappearances and secret cremations in Punjab, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) appointed a Commissioner of Inquiry in Amritsar. This Commissioner, retired High Court Judge K.S. Bhalla, was to identify the remaining 814 cremation victims from the CBI lists, if possible, by June 30, 2007.

The Bhalla Commission held its last hearing on June 29, 2007 and submitted its final report to the NHRC. The NHRC initially scheduled a hearing for August 2007, but postponed the hearing three times. At the latest hearing on October 18, the NHRC indicated that it would not extend the operations of the Bhalla Commission to identify the remaining cremation victims, and also declined to enhance the compensation given to some of the victim families. The next hearing has been scheduled for November 15, when the NHRC is expected to hear final arguments on the Bhalla Commission report. Ensaaf is working with the attorneys Nitya Ramakrishnan and Trideep Pais from the Committee for Information and Initiative on Punjab.

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Recent Events

Jago Miami

Ensaaf was invited to present at the 2007 Jago Miami Conference on human rights violations in Punjab. Ensaaf used this opportunity to commemorate the sacrifice of Jaswant Singh Khalra and present on the mass cremations case and victim families' struggles for justice for thousands of disappearances and extrajudicial executions committed during the 1980s and 1990s. The three-day event was attended by over 100 Sikh young professionals and students from across the country.

Widow Colony Seattle Screening

On October 6, Ensaaf participated in the Seattle premier of the acclaimed documentary The Widow Colony. The Widow Colony addresses the living conditions of the widows and the orphans of the Delhi Pogroms of 1984, during which thousands of Sikhs were brutally murdered. The documentary features an interview with Ensaaf Co-Director Jaskaran Kaur.

The interviews with the widows reveal that they remain trapped by the trauma in 1984 and the continuing denial of justice and redress. With their families torn and marginalized, these widows and children live in a segregated ghetto of New Delhi, called Tilak Vihar. They have been fighting for justice for 23 years and now their children struggle with the problems of drugs and unemployment. The perpetrators of these crimes remain free, the victims remain forgotten.

Ensaaf Co-Founders Receive SALDEF Award

 Jaskaran Kaur and Sukhman Dhami received the 2007 Youth Leadership Award from the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) for their work with Ensaaf to end impunity and achieve justice for mass state crimes in Punjab. According to SALDEF, Dhami and Kaur are examples of the inspiring dedication in ensuring that "injustices are never issues of the past" and "survivors of human rights abuses [see] justice and reparations." Ensaaf thanks SALDEF for this recognition.

Harvard Human Rights Journal

Ensaaf's Program Associate, Jasmine Marwaha, recently co-authored a note in the Harvard Human Rights Journal entitled: "Prolonged Mental Harm: The Torturous Reasoning Behind a New Standard for Psychological Abuse." The article calls into question the Bush Administration's interpretation of what constitutes psychological torture, an issue rarely addressed by critics of the administration's interrogation policies. The authors call for the administration to adopt international legal norms and condemn certain practices that are widely considered psychologically abusive; practices that result in prolonged mental harm to the detainee.

The Harvard Human Rights Journal publishes cutting-edge human rights scholarship by academics, practitioners, and students.

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Twenty Years of Impunity: Second Edition

 November 1 through 4 marks the 23rd anniversary of the pogroms of Sikhs. Ensaaf's report, Twenty Years of Impunity, clearly demonstrates that senior political party officials and police sponsored and organized the November 1984 massacres of over 3,000 Sikhs in the days following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The 2nd edition further establishes that the government willfully ignored evidence implicating specific perpetrators and subverted international law. The report includes analyses of the Nanavati Commission's report and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's speech, which failed to actively acknowledge or confront the horror of the massacres. The report succinctly articulates the failings of the Nanavati Commission and the Action Taken Report after a thorough consideration of the evidence at the government's disposal.

As the anniversary of the pogroms approach, we encourage you to learn more about these events and to discuss them with your friends and family, so that these crimes are not forgotten. The 2nd edition of Ensaaf's groundbreaking report is available online for $10 plus shipping.

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Ensaaf Thanks Its Volunteers

In addition to three full-time attorneys on staff, Ensaaf relies on a dedicated network of volunteers who generously lend their time and talents to the organization. Ensaaf in particular would like to thank:

Raj Singh for his work in putting together broadcast-quality video interviews of people featured in our new report, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India.

Karandeep Pawar for his work on the Documentation and Education program, as well as his help translating documents in preparation for the release of Protecting the Killers.

Jay Singh for his help with a variety of projects, most notably with data collection for a project under our Documentation and Education program.

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Ensaaf has Moved!

Please note that as of August 1, 2007, our address and phone numbers have changed. You can now reach us at:

Ensaaf
P.O. Box 594
Fremont, CA 94537
Tel: (510) 796-1190 or (415) 513-5488
Fax: (270) 916-7074
info@ensaaf.org

If you have moved recently or changed your email address, please update us so that we can continue to send you information about our work. You can send the new information to info@ensaaf.org.

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