Special Correspondent

Amnesty asks Orissa to make public findings of inquiry

At least 12 Adivasis were killed in police firing on January 2"People must be consulted about projects affecting them"

NEW DELHI: Amnesty International has expressed "grave concern" over the "excessive" use of force by the police on indigenous people during a protest at Kalinga Nagar in Orissa on January 2. At least a dozen adivasis were reportedly killed in police firing while one policeman was killed by the protesters.

In a statement here on Monday, Amnesty International asked the Orissa Government to ensure that the judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the firing was prompt, independent and impartial, and that the findings were made public. Public servants, including police, suspected of being responsible for human rights violations, must be prosecuted and all proceedings must meet international standards of fairness and must not include the imposition of death penalty, it said.

Amnesty said it believed that full consultations about the impact of economic decisions with those likely to be affected, including with activists and non-government organisations and other representatives of affected communities were vital means through which human rights were safeguarded in the context of development. It called upon the Orissa Government to ensure that individuals and activists in peaceful protests against development projects should be able to do so without fear or violence, harassment or false accusation of involvement in criminal activities. Also, it wanted the Government to announce a consistent policy of full consultation with local populations before any development affecting their lives could take place and ensure that, where populations were resettled, there was just, adequate and culturally-sensitive rehabilitation, resettlement and reparation for those affected.

Amnesty said it was alarmed by reports that when the bodies of the Adivasis killed in the firing were returned to their relatives after post-mortem, five of these were mutilated. The Orissa police claimed that the medical personnel who conducted the post-mortem examination of these bodies had severed the hands without the knowledge or permission of the victims' families.