The Right to Health Care Challenged In India

The Right to Health Care Challenged In India

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch; Asia

CHHATTISGARH, India – The right to health care is challenged as a misguided press began looking into claims by Kalluir, Senior Superintendent of Police, Dantewada, whom accused international humanitarian organization’s Medicines Sans Frontières (MSF), or doctors without borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of “facilitating” treatment to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and promised to investigate both agencies.

The Maoist rebels are active across a large swathe of India
The Maoist rebels are active across a large swathe of India

The CPI (Maoist) Formed in 2004 is a guerilla organization committed to overthrowing the Union government through an armed revolution.

“Investigations have shown that these medicines have been prescribed by MSF doctors,” Kalluri said. “They even carry out surgeries for those (Maoists) wounded in encounters with the police”.

“They come in the name of helping the poor, but these foreign doctors treat the Maoists. If they want to work for the poor, surely they can work elsewhere,” said SRP Kalluri.

However, Director-General of Police Vishwa Ranjan said no such investigation was under way. “The ICRC is still in the process of signing an agreement with the government to operate in Chhattisgarh,” he said.

“We are not investigating either organization for supporting the Maoists,” he said, attributing Mr. Kalluri’s comments to confusion among the local press.

MSF’s India head Martin Sloot said the organization offers medical support to people who have limited access to healthcare, with support from the Chhattisgarh government.

“These allegations, as I understand them, are not true. MSF has worked in Chhattisgarh for quite some time. We are very transparent, and provide medical care to the entire population,” said Martin Sloot, who heads the MSF mission in India.

“We are not a political organization, we are medical organization. We believe in the principles of impartiality and neutrality, and that healthcare is a right,” said Mr. Sloot said, adding that MSF did not allow armed people into its health centers.

“I am surprised by the comments,” said Yahia Alibi, Deputy Regional Head of the ICRC. “We do not operate in Dantewada, but are running one primary health center in Kutru, Bijapur, with the full support of the local administration and the police.”

Both MSF and ICRC have won Nobel Peace Prize for their work in providing humanitarian assistance to people caught in situations of armed conflict.

The rebels are believed to be active in more than two-thirds of the country. They say they are fighting for the rights of the rural poor.

A government offensive against the rebels widely referred to as Operation Green Hunt – began last October.  It involves 50,000 troops and is taking place across five states – West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
For more information, please see:

BBC – Red Cross and MSF accused of helping India Maoists – 21 January 2011

Times of India – Medecins Sans Frontieres, Red Cross treat Maoists: Dantewada – 20 January 2011

The Hindu – MSF and Red Cross aiding  Maoists: Dantewada police – 21 January 2011

Vatican Letter Warned Irish Bishops Not To Report Child Abuse

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

DUBLIN, Ireland
— A newly revealed 1997 document shows that the Vatican warned Irish Bishops against mandatory reporting of suspected child-abuse cases by priests to the police. Victims groups are calling this letter the “smoking gun” they’ve been looking for to prove that the Vatican engaged in a culture of cover-up.

The document does appear to contradict repeated claims from the Vatican over the years that church leaders in Rome did not seek to steer the actions of local bishops in suspected child-abuse cases by priests, nor did they hamper criminal investigations into child abuse.

The letter, obtained by the Irish Broadcaster RTE, was sent by the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, who was serving as Pope John Paul II’s chief representative to Ireland at the time. The letter was a response to a new policy instituted by Irish Bishops to deal with sexual abuse of children by priests. The policy included mandatory reporting of suspected abusers to the police.

The Storero letter, a copy of which the New York Times has made available on their website, stated that the proposed policy of mandatory reporting “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.”  The letter stresses “the need for the policy to conform to the canonical norms presently in force.” The letter goes on to state that by following non-canonical procedures, Bishops “could invalidate the acts of the same Bishops who are attempting to put a stop to these problems” and the “results could be highly embarrassing and detrimental to those same Diocesan authorities.”

A spokesman for the Vatican, Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed the letter’s authenticity, but stressed that it was outdated, saying it referred to a “situation that [they’ve] now moved beyond.” Lombardi indicated that the approach to sexual abuse cases changed in 2001 when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the time led by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was put in charge of such cases.

According to the Associated Press, today the Vatican instructs bishops worldwide to report crimes to the police — in a legally non-binding lay guide on its Web site. This advice is not included in the official legal advice provided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was updated last summer. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith continues to stress the secrecy of canon law.

Victims groups and activists believe that this letter proves that the Vatican did practice a policy of cover up by instructing local bishops not to report suspected abusers to the criminal authorities. “The Vatican is at the root of this problem,” said Colm O’Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of Amnesty International. “Any suggestion that they have not deliberately and willfully been instructing bishops not to report priests to appropriate civil authorities is now proven to be ridiculous.”

Joelle Casteix, a director of U.S. advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the Storero letter was the “smoking gun” they’ve been looking for, and would likely be used in the future by victims’ lawyers seeking to hold the Vatican responsible.

“In the mid 1990s, Irish bishops wanted to start telling law enforcement about horrific child sex crimes,” the group, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement. “Top Vatican bureaucrats told them no. That’s what this newly released letter shows. We can’t help but wonder how many other similar documents — in which the Vatican thwarts local efforts to combat abuse — remain hidden in church records across the world.”

For more information, please see:

BBC — Vatican officials told Irish not to report child abuse — 19 Jan. 2011

CNN — Irish abuse victims ‘disgusted’ at Vatican letter — 19 Jan. 2011

AP — Vatican Warned Irish Bishops Not to Report Abuse — 18 Jan. 2011

NYT — Vatican Letter Warned Bishops on Abuse Policy — 18 Jan. 2011

Rights groups urge no repatriation of North Koreans to Hu

Obama is pressed to raise NK refugee issue with Hu (Photo Courtesy of White House/Pete Souza)

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA – Human Rights groups, including The North Korean Freedom Coalition (NKFC), are urging President Barack Obama to press China to stop repatriating North Korean refugees captured in China. President Hu Jintao of China met with President Obama on Wednesday and this has created a lot of hype amongst the media and public.

While most of discussion between two leaders is expected to revolve around setting a new course in economic cooperation and political reconciliation, human rights groups point to North Korean refugees over whom China has tremendous power and control.

“We urgently request that during your meetings . . . with President Hu Jintao… that you request China to end its current policy of repatriating North Korean refugees back to North Korea,” Suzanne Scholte, chairwoman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, said in an open letter to Obama. “We believe that ending this policy of repatriation would have a very positive effect for China and North Korea.”

However, it is unclear, thus far, how much of concern has been expressed by President Obama on North Korean refugees. His primary agenda regarding North Korea is the North’s recent development of its nuclear weapons programs and its latest provocation against South Korea.

China has failed to join the international community in condemning North Korea on two series of attacks it carried against South Korea last year; sinking of the naval ship, Cheonan, in March, which took the lives of 46 marines, and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November, killing two civilians and two soldiers.

It is estimated that up to 400,000 North Korean refugees are hiding in China trying to find their way to another country, mostly South Korea. China, however, in violation of the 1951 U.N. Convention that requires countries to grant asylum to foreign refugees, and under a secret agreement with North Korea, treats defectors as economic immigrants rather than refugees, and repatriate them when caught in their soil.

Those repatriated to the North are subject to “a minimum of five years of labor correction” or “indefinite terms of imprisonment and forced labor, confiscation of property or death,” according to a U.S. State Department report released last year. According to Scholte, many female refugees are subject to becoming victims of human trafficking and sold as sexual slaves among chinese men.

“It is China’s repatriation policy that has created an environment in China that has led to human beings being bought and sold, as over 80 percent of North Korean females are trafficked . . . These women are our mothers, or sisters, and our daughters who are being bought and sold like animals just because they went to China to try to feed their starving children and families in North Korea,” said Scholte.

South Korea has taken in more the 20,000 North Koreans since the end of the Korean War (1950-53), while the United States have been accepting about 100 North Korean refugees under the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004.

For more information, please see:

Yonhap News – Obama urged to ask Hu to stop repatriating N. Korean refugees: rights group – 12 January 2011

The Korea Times – Obama pressed to raise NK refugee plight with Hu – 12 January 2011

The New York Times – U.S. Warning to China Sends Ripples to the Koreas – 20 January 2011