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Study finds torture and human rights abuses among Tibetan refugees

The incidence of mental illness and torture amongst Tibetan refugees is much higher than previously expected, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC International Health and Human Rights. Researchers say that NGOs and foreign governments should be aware that the human rights abuses levied on this vulnerable population may have lasting health effects and are unacceptable under international law.

Many Tibetan refugees flee Tibet to Nepal or India in order to escape religious and political oppression, following the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950. In current Tibet, ethnic Tibetans are forbidden to worship their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, or to speak out on political issues. Such actions can result in criminal prosecutions. Accessing accurate information on the status of human rights in Tibet is difficult due to state censorship, but researchers from North America and Europe have conducted systematic evaluations of torture, imprisonment and major human rights violations and examined their impact on mental health amongst refugees who successfully escaped to Nepal and India.

Edward Mills, from McMaster University in Canada, and colleagues from Wake Forest University and Emory University in USA and universities of Toronto, York and Manitoba in Canada, found that the prevalence of reported human rights violations was extremely high within the refugee population and likely corresponds to their increased incidence of mental health illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, and depression.

Mills and colleagues had previously conducted research in Nepal with recent Tibetan refugees and found reported incidences of child imprisonment, torture, rape and executions. Their current study evaluated all published reports on mental health outcomes within the Tibetan population. All included studies had been conducted on Tibetan refugees that had successfully escaped Tibet, a combined analysis of
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Contact: Edward Mills
millsej@mcmaster.ca
1-416-951-8530
McMaster University, Department of Clinical Epidemiology
9-Nov-2005


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