WSO Concerned by Continuing Human Rights Violations in Punjab

Ottawa (March 18, 2011):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada is gravely concerned by the increasing number of reports of human rights abuses by security forces in Punjab including torture, disappearances and custodial killings.  Most recently, on March 14, 2010 Sohan Singh, an alleged member of the Khalistan Commando Force, died in police custody under mysterious circumstances.

Sohan Singh was taken into custody March 7, 2010 on charges of terrorism.  On March 14, the police reported that Sohan Singh had committed suicide.  However family members have stated that Sohan Singh’s body showed signs of torture including several burn marks and profuse bleeding behind the neck. 

Sohan Singh’s death follows several other recent incidents of gross human rights abuses by the Punjab Police.  In January of this year, a Sikh youth Shaminder Singh Shera revealed in court that he had been illegally detained and tortured by the Punjab Police for two weeks for alleged links to militants.  The court ordered that the police pay Shera’s family Rs. 1 lakh in damages and provide him police protection until his next court appearance on March 9, 2011.  Despite the order for police protection, on January 18, Shera was attacked by an unidentified group of persons and died as a result of his injuries.  

The case of Wasil Khan, a native of India’s Bihar province also recently came to light.  Khan was held in prison for nine years on charges of carrying out blasts in a passenger train, buses and a cinema hall until his acquittal on all charges in July 2010.  Earlier this month, Khan told the story of how he was mercilessly tortured in police custody and ordered to confess at gunpoint. 

WSO’s senior policy advisor Gian Singh Sandhu said, “Illegal detentions and torture have been commonplace in Punjab and India in general for decades.  The culture of impunity has to stop.  Indian security forces must be held accountable and function under the rule of law for India to develop as a genuine liberal democracy.”

WSO President Prem Singh Vinning said, “Police officers guilty of human rights abuses must be punished.   Torture and extrajudicial killings are unacceptable and the world community must continue to pressure governments like India to crack down on those who would ignore human rights norms.  Fair and impartial investigations into these incidents of abuse are essential for the truth to come out.”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.

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