AFAD’s Open letter to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on the disappearance of human rights defenders Weeraraja and Muruganandan

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

20 December 2011

 

OPEN LETTER

HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT MAHINDA RAJAPAKSE

Office of the President,

Temple Trees, 150, Galle Road,

Colombo 3, Sri Lanka

 

His Excellency President Rajapakse,

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) recently received reports regarding the enforced disappearance of two human rights defenders, Mr. Lalith Kumar Weeraraja and Mr. Kugan Muruganandan.

The above-mentioned persons were last seen leaving the residence of Mr. Muruganandan on Avarangal, Jaffna on a motorbike (license no NP GT 7852) on the 9th of December 2011 at 5:00 p.m. At the time they disappeared, they were organizing a press conference for the 10TH of December International Human Rights Day to project the protest action of the Movement for People’s Struggle in Colombo on 13th December 2011.

The families have not seen the two men since then.  They were unofficially informed that both human rights defenders were kept in an unidentified detention facility in Jaffna district.  By eleven in the evening of the 9th of December, the father of Mr. Weeraraja reportedly received phone calls threatening to kill Mr. Weeraraja and further stating “either you remove your son from Jaffna or we will do it for you.” The incident was lodged as a complaint under the Kosgama Police Station on the 11th of December  2011 (CIB 94/133).

Mr. Weeraraja serves as the Executive Committee member of the organization, “We Are Sri Lankans” and the Jaffna Coordinator of the Jana Aragalaya (People’s Struggle) movement while Mr. Muruganandan actively assisted Mr. Weeraraja in the conduct of his human rights work. Both defenders were campaigning against enforced disappearances, promotion of the rights of the internally displaced persons in the north and the release of political prisoners among others.

Prior to their disappearance, Mr. Weeraraja previously suffered from threats by the army and police regarding his work.

In April 2011, Mr. Weeraraja and a colleague were arrested by the Vavuniya police and threatened to be shot while putting up posters about enforced disappearances in the North.

On the 23rd of June 2011, he and another colleague were again abducted by officers of the Killinochchi army camp (Depo Junction) and were detained and interrogated in an abandoned ice-cream factory.

On the 14th of November 2011, Mr. Weeraraja with other human rights defenders suffered from severe beatings by unidentified men during a protest with the families of the disappeared in Jaffna in front of the Jaffna town bus stand. The beatings happened in front of the military, who did not intervene and stop the attack.

AFAD strongly condemns the disappearance of the Mr. Weeraraja and Mr. Muruganandan. The work of both human rights defenders’ is crucial in demanding justice for the victims of enforced disappearances of the Tamils in the North. The disappearance of Mr. Weeraraja and Mr. Muruganandan was clearly an act to suppress efforts to uncover the truth behind cases of disappearances in the past.

The Federation demands for the Rajapaksa administration to:

  • Immediately intervene and investigate the disappearance of Mr. Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Mr. Kugan Muruganandan particularly the allegations that government security forces are responsible for the act.
  • The conduct of the investigations must lead to the disclosure of the whereabouts of the victims, the release of the   victims from custody, the disclosure of the identity of the perpetrators including the grounds in which both human rights defenders were held. Specifically, the threatening phone calls received by Mr. Weeraraja’s father must be thoroughly investigated to establish leads to the whereabouts of the victims and the perpetratorsThe past harassments and threats to Mr. Weeraraja (April 2011 threats involving the posters of the disappeared,  abduction and detention on the 23rd of June 2011 by officers of the army camp in Killinochchi, and the beatings on the 14th of November during the protest action by the families of the disappeared)  must also be investigated with the erring officials sanctioned and brought before the court of law;
  • Ensure that an impartial investigation will be conducted, with the proceedings held with transparency. Information regarding the case must be made accessible to the families,  other parties concerned and the public;
  • Ensure the protection of the families of Mr. Weeraraj and Mr. Muruganandan as well as other human rights defenders intervening with and on behalf of the victims in pursuing for legal remedies.

The Federation urges the Government of Sri Lanka for the compliance to Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating “…the right to life, liberty and security of person”. The UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance has emphasized enforced disappearance as an offense to human dignity and violates “…the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to liberty and security of the person and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,”. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPAPED) under Article 1 subsequently reiterated the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance and that no circumstances can be invoked to justify enforced disappearance.

Enforced disappearance brings immense suffering both to the victim and their families. We trust that the Rajapaksa administration will recognize state obligations prescribed under the international human rights instruments particularly in ending enforced disappearance and the firm refusal to tolerate enforced disappearance.

We trust that the Government of Sri Lanka will heed the plight of the family as they demand for the truth behind the disappearance of their loved ones, Mr. Weeraraja and Mr. Muruganandan, and the prosecution of perpetrators responsible for the assault to the dignity of both human rights defenders.

We shall await the immediate intervention regarding the said case.

Thank you.

 

For the protection of human rights,

 

MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO

Secretary-General

 

MUGIYANTO

Chairperson

 

Copy furnished to:

 

Mr. Mohan Peiris

Attorney General, Attorney General’s Department,

Colombo 12, Sri Lanka

 

Ms. Chandra Ellawala

Secretary, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka,

118, Barnes Place, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka

 

Inspector General of Police (IGP)

New Secretariat, Colombo 1, Sri Lanka

National Police Commission

3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers, 109 Galle Road,

Colombo 03, Sri Lanka

 

Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Defence Secretary, Ministry Of Defence and Urban Development

15/5, Baladaksha Mawatha, Colombo 03, Sri Lanka

 

Ms. Kshenuka Senewiratne

Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva

Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

56 rue De Moillebeau, 5th Floor, 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland

 

Dr. Palitha T.B.Kohona

Ambassador & Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York

Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

#630, 3rd Avenue (20th Floor), New York, NY 10017

United States America

 

Mr. Jeremy J. Sarkin

Chairperson, UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID)

c/o OHCHR-UNOG CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

 

Emmanuel Decaux

Chairperson, UN Committee on Enforced Disappearance (CED)

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Palais Wilson – 52, rue des Pâquis, CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland

 

Ms. Margaret Sekaggya

Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Palais Wilson

United Nations Office at Geneva

CH 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

 

Mr. Nawalage Bennet Cooray

Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Philippines

7th Floor G.C. Corporate Plaza Building, No. 150 Legaspi Street, Legaspi Village

Makati City, Philippines

Nepal: Updates from Advocacy Forum

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Updates from Advocacy Forum

14 December, 2011

1. Impunity reports released

Expressing their grave concerns over the endemic impunity of Nepal for crimes committed both in the past and the present, AF and two other human rights watchdogs of UK and USA (REDRESS and Human Rights Watch respectively) have jointly released their reports and have reiterated their calls for the government to bring the perpetrators of gross human rights violations to book.

A report on de jure impunity titled “Held to Account: Making the Law Work to Fight Impunity in Nepal” has observed 20 pieces of Nepali legislations currently in force that are not only inconsistent with international standards but also contribute to impunity for serious human rights violations. The report also makes the case for legislative review and reform. It has mainly observed the flaws and lacunae in legislations like the Army Act, the Police Act, the Local Administration Act, the Forest Act, the Armed Police force Act, the State Cases Act any many others under which authorities concerned are given widespread powers to arrest and detain people amounting to serious breach of human rights of individual(s) and also points to areas in which the same law can be used as a positive force in shaping institutions and practices to fight impunity. The report focuses in particular on impunity for arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, rape and torture- all of which were widely committed during the conflict and which continue to greater or lesser extent today.

Another report “Adding Insult to Injury: Continued Impunity for Wartime Abuses ” construes impunity in terms of what is seen in practice as denial of justice to victims of violations- a de facto impunity. It expressly sets forth six emblematic cases of killings, disappearances and torture of the conflict and post-conflict Nepal and shows how the investigation authorities have been derelict in their duties and failed to conduct investigations even in the face of Supreme Court orders, fuelling impunity in practical terms. Against such a backdrop, the report calls on the government to abide by its public commitments and international obligations. The successive government’s moves vis-à-vis case withdrawal, amnesties and pardons as well as decisions with regards to laurelling the alleged perpetrators implicated for grave violations to lucrative positions, have also come under a close scrutiny and scathing critique of the report. It has flatly denounced such acts, tagging them as stumbling blocks to those thousands of victims who are ever waiting for justice.

Click the link below to read the full version of the reports:

http://advocacyforum.org/downloads/pdf/publications/impunity/held-to-account-nov-30-2011-english-version.pdf

http://advocacyforum.org/downloads/pdf/publications/impunity/adding-insult-to-injury-nov-30-2011-english-version.pdf

2. Government Says No to OHCHR-N term Extension

December 8, 2011. The government on Wednesday asked the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR-Nepal) in Nepal to end its operations in Nepal, notwithstanding assurances from political parties and mounting pressure at national and international level for the latter’s year-long extension. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has asked the OHCHR to wind up its activities within six months as agreed during the last term extension in June. OHCHR’s term has expired on Thursday.

The opposition parties have, however, strongly objected to the government’s move and have pronounced it as what they called “a unilateral decision”, citing former consent among the parties to offer a final extension to the UN human rights body. They demanded the government to scrap its decision lest they are compelled to take stern steps. Maoist Chairman Prachand and Premier Baburam Bhattarai had previously agreed on one final extension of the OHCHR. Contrary to this, the MoFA on Wednesday wrote two separate letters to the OHCHR headquarters in Geneva and its country office in Kathmandu stating that the government has not taken any new decision with regards to its term extension and that by default the June 1 decision was in force under which it has to prepare exit strategy and pack up within six months followed by a short “wrap up” time. In response to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s plea to extend the term of the OHCHR-N, Prime Minister Bhattarai said that efforts are being carried out towards consolidating and strengthening local institutions including the National Human Rights Commission “(NHRC). Paradoxically, the government has asked the NHRC not to investigate into conflict-related cases.

The international community has also opposed the government’s decision. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has reiterated the necessity of OHCHR’s presence in Nepal from the vantage point of continued challenges still seen in the human rights sector and the rule of law. In its annual report on the state of human rights protection in Nepal, AHCHR emphasizes that Nepal should abide by its commitments made during the Universal Period Review in January in which the government had committed to defending human rights and maintaining zero tolerance against impunity. Nepal’s peace process is still in transition and extreme political polarization and politicization of almost all aspects of social life, political instability, feeble institutions and escalating insecurity are seen as stumbling blocks in guaranteeing human rights and ensuring the rule of law. Still, lots of cases of grave violations are reported, with a few investigated and adjudicated, let alone thousands of cases of grave violations relating to the conflict period. Given such bleak situation, the exit of OHCHR-N would further jeopardize the peace process and the entire issue of accountability and justice.

3. HRO sensed a foul play in TRC and Disappearance Commission Bills

The Government’s initiatives to establish the much-hyped the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) and the Disappearance Commissions have met with controversies and contentions, for human rights watchdogs and civil society have sensed a foul play the government is intending to act against the conflict victims. Their dream of justice is likely to shatter under the amnesty or similar provisions the government is proposing to incorporate in the bills. The government’s explicit focus on reconciliation and reparations have left many to suspect whether or not the commissions are mandated to hold individual accountable for the crimes committed in the past. A truth commission is valued as an important post-conflict mechanism. So the establishment of such a commission in Nepal sans judicial prosecution or individual accountability could preclude the objective of achieving a meaningful sense of justice by victims and by society. Reconciliation and reparations, as are the battle cry of the government in the bills, have an effect to supersede the part of prosecution.

The government is all set to repeal section 24 of the TRC draft bill under which the commission is mandated to recommend for prosecution and has focused on loose reconciliation and reparations provisions. This provision, if implemented, is sure to make the commission a paper tiger. If the government really wishes justice to happen to victims then the commission should be given wider mandates to recommend for prosecution.

Furthermore, the bills tabled before the legislative parliament have come with major changes in Section 25 which prevents any sort of amnesty and pardon for the crimes listed in the Section. Again, the government is intending to repeal crimes other than rape and disappearance from the list. Averting amnesty and pardon for rape and disappearance and not for other ones like torture, extrajudicial killings, abduction etc. manifests the government’s ploy to grant immunity to Maoists, as the security personnel (army, police and armed police force) are mostly implicated in the crimes of rape and enforced disappearance during the conflict. Amnesty provisions for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, including extrajudicial execution and torture are inconsistent with Nepal’s obligation under international law.

The Transitional Justice Advocacy Group has vehemently denounced the government’s proposals for TRC bills and has reiterated that law or mechanism lacking the minimum international human rights standards aimed at establishing truth and delivering justice will not be acceptable. In its press release, the TJ Advocacy Group has set forth minimum standards that should be incorporated in the proposed draft bills.

Please click the link below for the press release:

http://www.advocacyforum.org/downloads/pdf/press-statement/truth-without-justice-will-not-be-acceptable.pdf

4. Interim Order: Not to pardon Balkrishna Dhungel, CA members convicted for murder

An Interim Order from the Supreme Court has stalled the controversial amnesty process for Maoist CA member Bal Krishna Dhungel, convicted by the Supreme Court for the murder of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha.  In what can be analyzed as the Maoists’ attempt to test the waters for the evasion of prosecution for crimes committed during the period of conflict, the Maoist-led government has put its credibility at stake by sheltering a convicted offender, much to the vexation of victims and anyone rooting for the rule of law. The Maoists seem to have feared that this case would precipitate the prosecution of similar other cases implicating their rank and file cadres in serious human rights abuses during the conflict.  Arguing that every case from the conflict period is a political crime, the Maoists remain effortful to let all their cadres accused of rights abuses go scot free.  It appears that the Maoists are testing the strength of the human rights movement in Nepal via this case. Balkrishna Dhungel is the only person convicted of an offense from the conflict period.  He was convicted for homicide and sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of property as he was found guilty of murdering Ujjan Kumar Shrestha on 24 June 1998 owing to personal matters. He served time in pretrial detention and also subsequent to the decision by the District Court of Okhaldhunga on 10 May 2004. The Appellate Court, Rajbiraj, later repealed the decision of the District Court Okhaldhunga and acquitted him four months before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  The victim’s family moved the Supreme Court against the decision of the Appellate Court. The Supreme Court on 3 January 2010 upheld the decision of the district court.  After the police failed to arrest and incarcerate Dhungel and the government attempted to seek amnesty for Dhungel, the victim’s family filed a writ requesting an interim order for the implementation of the SC verdict. The Court on 21 June 2011 clarified that there was no legal obstacle to incarcerate Dhungel.  

Visit links below for details:

http://www.advocacyforum.org/fir/2011/10/ujjan-kumar-shrestha.php

http://www.advocacyforum.org/news/2011/11/sc-stays-dhungel-clemency.phphttp://www.advocacyforum.org/news/2011/11/government-pressured-for-refraining-from-amnesty-to-dhungel.php

http://www.advocacyforum.org/news/2011/11/pardon-to-dhungel-contravenes-cpa.php

AFAD Statement on the International Human Rights Day

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

10 December 2011

 

Impunity for Enforced Disappearance Must End NOW!

 

Today, as the world commemorates the 63rd International Human Rights Day, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances or (AFAD) calls on all governments particularly those in the Asian region to stop enforced disappearance and to end impunity.

Enforced disappearance is considered one of the cruelest human rights transgression. It is a multiple and continuous violation of the basic human rights not only of the direct victims but also of their families and the greater society. It inflicts untold sufferings to the victims who are forcibly taken by agents of the States and denied access to legal safeguards by removing them from the protection of the law. It causes ill-effects to the victims’ families, not knowing the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. Mothers, wives, and daughters are usually left without any means to tend their families. In South Asian context, wives of the disappeared are called “half-widows’ who are stripped of legal status to obtain pensions and other means of support.  Children of the disappeared equally suffer. They are deprived of a normal family and a good future. No doubt, enforced disappearance sows fear and terror in society.

Many governments employ this atrocious practice as a tool of state repression and political witch-hunt. It is a major human rights concern of more than 80 countries based on the 2010 report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, a thematic UN body created in 1980 to monitor the incidences of enforced disappearances worldwide. Many cases occur in Asian countries, the continent that submitted the highest number of cases.

The Asian region lacks a strong mechanism for redress.  There are no available domestic laws penalizing disappearance as a separate and autonomous criminal offense. Not only are cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances difficult to investigate and prosecute. They recur with each passing day in many Asian countries. Perpetrators can easily walk away from criminal accountability.
Efforts by several governments along with families of the disappeared and international human rights organizations have made possible the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly and its consequent entry into force on 23 December 2010. To date, this international human rights instrument has 90 signatories and 30 States Parties.

It is but imperative for all states to accede to the international treaty against enforced disappearances without reservation and immediately adopt effective national laws to abolish this horrendous practice.

While these legal measures and mechanisms may not bring back the disappeared, they can certainly help in finding truth and justice and in preventing cases from happening again. It only takes one small step to have a leap of change.

Ending impunity should both be a demand and a call for unity and action.

For the disappeared and their families, the  63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will have a deeper meaning through governments’ accession to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the enactment of laws criminalizing disappearances and their full implementation.

Signed and authenticated by:

MUGIYANTO                                                             MARY AILEEN BACALSO

Chairperson                                                                    Secretary-General

Statement of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED)

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

10 November 2011

Mr. Chairperson, Esteemed Members of the Committee, ladies and gentlemen – good afternoon.

 

About ICAED

The International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) consists of 40 member-organizations from Africa, Europe, the Eurasian Region (Euro-Mediterranean Region, Caucasus and Belarus), Latin America, Asia and the United States. The ICAED includes both international non-governmental human rights organizations and national and regional associations of families of the disappeared which together are united to combat the crime of enforced disappearance and promote truth, justice, reparation, and remembrance for all desaparecidos.

 

ICAED Recommendations to the Committee on Enforced Disappearances

The ICAED strongly welcomes this opportunity to meet the distinguished members of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance (the Committee) on the historic occasion of its inaugural session. The existence of this new treaty body is a source of hope for thousands of relatives of the disappeared people throughout the world. The ICAED considers it essential that the Committee is guaranteed the necessary funding and staffing to carry out its functions in the most effective manner.

The ICAED calls on the Committee to ensure that its rules of procedure and methods of work are drafted in such a way as to ensure that the Committee can effectively carry out its mandate and functions and are accessible to civil society. In this regard, the ICAED urges the Committee to open a participative process in the coming months, in which representatives of civil society are invited to express their views and deliver proposals for the consolidated version of the rules of procedure of the Committee.

The ICAED stresses the crucial importance that will be played by the Committee with regard to the Article 30 urgent intervention procedure. It is essential that the Committee enables the functioning of this procedure as soon as possible, in a manner that ensures that it is both accessible to those representing the disappeared and appropriately coordinated with existing special procedures and other international monitoring bodies.

The ICAED encourages the Committee to establish close cooperation with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, in order to enrich its own work in the light of some 30 years of experience of this Working Group by, for examples, coordinating the schedule and venue of sessions of the Committee with the Working Group and establishing a system of communication between the two bodies.

The ICAED also underscores the crucial importance of country visits that may be undertaken by the Committee. Wherever possible, planned visits should be announced as promptly as possible in order to enable the widest possible participation of civil society. The ICAED calls the attention of the Committee to the grave situations of ongoing and continuing cases of enforced disappearance in the territory of the following States Parties to the Convention: Honduras, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, and Tunisia, and urges the Committee to consider country visits among the possible responses of the Committee. In addition, the ICAED stresses the fundamental importance of ensuring a regular system of follow-up on the conclusions and recommendations issued at the end of its missions.

The ICAED urges the Committee to promote the effective implementation of the Convention in the domestic laws of States Parties and urges the Committee to develop guidelines and tools to assist States Parties in this regard. The recently published ICAED member Amnesty International Checklist for Effective Implementation of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is a comprehensive guide for States Parties to implement domestic legislation fully in line with the Convention and other international law standards and may serve as a useful tool to promote ratification and implementation.

The ICAED calls the attention of the Committee to the importance of adopting interpretations of the Convention’s provision that affirm the treaty’s central purpose of ending the practice of enforced disappearance, as well as clarifying the numerous and complex obligations for States Parties that arise from the Convention. For instance, the Committee will be called upon to interpret Article 20 which provides for possible restriction of States Parties’ obligation to provide information about deprivation of liberty when a set of narrowly defined circumstances are met. In order to ensure that this provision is not abused, it is critical that the Committee provides an interpretation of this provision in the light of the spirit and purpose of the Convention. Similarly, the interpretation of the definition of a victim pursuant to Article 24 of the Convention in a comprehensive manner in line with international law standards is an important task of the Committee.

Finally, in the course of its work, the ICAED urges the Committee to pay particular attention to the enforced disappearance of children, including during State Party examinations and country visits.

 

Participating Organizations to the ICAED International Conference on Enforced Disappearances

November 7-9, 2011 Geneva Switzerland

Asian Federation Against Enforced Disappearances (AFAD)
Al-Ata’a for Human Rights Support-Iraq
Amnesty International
Asamblea Permante por los Derechos Humanos – Argentina
Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, Ejecuciones Extrajudiciales y Torturados Huancayo-Junín (AFDDEET) -Peru
Association de Parents et Amis de Disparus au Maroc
Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos de El Salvador
Asociación para la Recuperacion de la Memoria Historia de Catalunya (ARMHC)
Breaking the Wall of Silence-Namibia
Centro de los Derechos Humanos y Talleres Productivos Qatari Panituri-Peru
Colegio de Abogados – Peru
Collectif des Families De Disparus en Algerie
Comision de Derechos Humanos (COMISEDH)-Peru

Comité de Coordination des Familles des Disparus au Maroc (CCFDM)- Morocco
Equipo Peruano de Antropologia Forense – Peru
Federation Internationale de l’ACAT (FIACAT)
Federation Internationale des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH)
Fédération Euroméditérannéenne Contre Les Disparitions forcées (FEMED)
Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos (FEDEFAM)
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists
Jardin des Disparus
Liga Guatemalteca de Higiene Mental – Guatemala
Russian Justice Initiative
Track Impunity Always
Torture Abolition and Support Coalition
Civil Initiative We Remember -Belarus
Zimbabwe Peace Project

Statement of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) for the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID)

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

10 November 2011

At the conclusion of the three-day conference of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) in Geneva, the Coalition underscored the crucial role the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has played in the global campaign to end enforced disappearances.

It is lamentable that despite the ICAED’s active and steadfast lobby both in the national and international levels for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, a significant number of its member-organizations come from countries that have not yet signed much less ratified the Convention.

In this light, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) remains the principal venue where families of the disappeared and organizations dealing with the subject of enforced disappearance can make their voices heard, more particularly concerning individual petitions and general allegations. Accordingly, the ICAED calls on the WGEID to continue discharging its functions even as it strongly urges the United Nations to provide the WGEID with the necessary staffing and resources.

The ICAED encourages the WGEID to closely cooperate with the newly established Committee on Enforced Disappearances and share its 30-year experience and expertise with this new monitoring body for it to adopt best practices that can effectively protect human rights.

The ICAED expresses its appreciation for the recent country visit made by the WGEID to the Republic of the Congo, which now brings the Working Group back to the African continent. Concomitantly, the ICAED stresses that attention to the African continent is most needed, as the rising number of enforced disappearances throughout the continent has become alarming. Under-reporting remains a problem amidst harassments, threats and attacks directed against associations of relatives of the disappeared. Hence, the ongoing monitoring by the WGEID is imperative.

The ICAED encourages the WGEID to continue conducting country-visits which should be announced as promptly as possible, in order to enable the widest possible participation of civil society organizations (CSOs). Moreover, the ICAED stresses the fundamental importance of a regular system of follow through on the conclusions and recommendations issued at the end of each mission.

The ICAED calls on the WGEID to sustain its accessibility to the relatives of the disappeared from all over the world, ensure flexibility of its procedures and take into account the difficulties experienced in the field.

In the light of the overriding importance of the country missions, the ICAED proposes that the WGEID consider modifying formal country visits and working missions. The visit of experts to different countries, even if not in the framework of official country missions, would enable them to formulate meaningful recommendations to governments and pursue fruitful dialogues with local civil society organizations.

The ICAED calls on the WGEID to continue close monitoring of the replies received from governments and to ensure that families of the disappeared, representatives of civil society, and sources of information have the opportunity to express their views on these replies.

The ICAED draws the attention of the WGEID to the specific phenomenon of the enforced disappearance of children, which has its own peculiarities and proposes that the Working Group elaborates on this in a general comment, identifying existing best practices and the responsibilities of governments.

The ICAED congratulates the WGEID for its recent study on the best practices concerning the crime of enforced disappearance in domestic criminal legislation. In this light, the ICAED calls on the WGEID to continue monitoring the enactment of domestic laws that criminalize enforced disappearance as an autonomous offence, in order to ensure compliance with international standards. In the event of non-observance of such norms, it behooves the WGEID to issue concrete recommendations to concerned governments.

The ICAED reiterates its gratitude for the Working Group’s unwavering support to the global struggle to eradicate enforced disappearance even as the Coalition pledges its support to the Working Group in carrying out its mandate.

Participating Organizations to the ICAED International Conference on Enforced Disappearances

November 7-9, 2011

Geneva Switzerland

Asian Federation Against Enforced Disappearances (AFAD)
Al-Ata’a for Human Rights Support-Iraq
Amnesty International
Asamblea Permante por los Derechos Humanos – Argentina
Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, Ejecuciones Extrajudiciales y Torturados Huancayo-Junín (AFDDEET) -Peru
Association de Parents et Amis de Disparus au Maroc
Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos de El Salvador
Asociación para la Recuperacion de la Memoria Historia de Catalunya (ARMHC)
Breaking the Wall of Silence-Namibia
Centro de los Derechos Humanos y Talleres Productivos Qatari Panituri-Peru
Colegio de Abogados – Peru
Collectif des Families De Disparus en Algerie
Comision de Derechos Humanos (COMISEDH)-Peru

Comité de Coordination des Familles des Disparus au Maroc (CCFDM)- Morocco
Equipo Peruano de Antropologia Forense – Peru
Federation Internationale de l’ACAT (FIACAT)
Federation Internationale des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH)
Fédération Euroméditérannéenne Contre Les Disparitions forcées (FEMED)
Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos (FEDEFAM)
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists
Jardin des Disparus
Liga Guatemalteca de Higiene Mental – Guatemala
Russian Justice Initiative
Track Impunity Always
Torture Abolition and Support Coalition
Civil Initiative We Remember -Belarus
Zimbabwe Peace Project

Categories: Statements Tags: ,

Conference statement: International Conference on Enforced Disappearances

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

CONFERENCE STATEMENT

 

International Conference on Enforced Disappearances

Geneva, Switzerland, 7-9 November 2011

 

Organizations of Families from Various Continents

and International NGOs

Gather on the First Meeting of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances

and on the 95th Session of the UN WGEID

We, members and supporters of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) from Africa, Asia, Euro-Asia, Euro-Mediterranean Region, Latin America, North America convened for the first time at the seat of the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland on the occasion of the first meeting of the newly established UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED).  The CED is the body of independent experts which monitors the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (The Convention) by the States Parties.

Our gathering, which we considered a high level of solidarity, was also intended to coincide with the 95th session of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID), which, in its 30 years of working for the clarification of the whereabouts of the disappeared, has supported and continues to support our work.

This historic gathering of the members of the Coalition has provided us with a venue to update ourselves on the phenomenon of enforced disappearance in our respective countries and our common campaign for signatures to and ratifications of the Convention. This is an integral part of the search for truth and justice and of our struggle against impunity.  A very important component of the conference was the re-launching of the program Linking Solidarity through the process of conducting a participatory research on Learning History.

Coming all the way from our respective countries, we share the still on-going and unresolved cases of enforced disappearances. The presentations made us reconfirm that in most of our countries, the heinous crime of enforced disappearance remains unresolved and worse still, persists with each passing day. The multiple violations of the rights wreak immeasurable pain and anxiety to both the disappeared and their surviving families and relatives.

The ICAED laments the resurgence of enforced disappearances across the globe. It expresses deep and special concern on the situation of enforced disappearance in Africa as the number of enforced disappearances throughout the continent remains of high concern. Under-reporting continues to be a problem and associations of relatives of disappeared people are targets of harassment, threats and attacks. The ongoing monitoring of the WGEID and of the CED is therefore of the utmost importance.

The Convention, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 2006 and had entered into force on 23 December 2010 is a sign of recognition by the United Nations of the global magnitude of the crime.  It is a major victory of the associations and federations of families of the disappeared whose real-life experiences of the consequences of enforced disappearance have been fundamental bases of many of its provisions. To date, the treaty has 90 signatories and 30 States Parties.  Considering the global magnitude of enforced disappearances, much remains to be done in attaining universal implementation of the Convention.

Thus, the Conference deemed it important to chart its plan of action both for internal consolidation and expansion as well as for carrying out its mandate of campaigning for as many signatures and ratifications of the Convention as possible.

To make its international presence visible, the ICAED conducted a side event, entitled:  “Universal Implementation of the International Convention Against Enforced Disappearances:  A Task and a Challenge.”  The Chairpersons of both the UN WGEID and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) spoke on the imperative of cooperation between the two bodies and their cooperation with members of civil society.  The presence of the Argentinian government in the panel, whose commendable efforts to ensure the Convention’s implementation, is a source of inspiration.

At this juncture, the ICAED expresses its appreciation for the establishment of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance (CED) and calls on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that this new monitoring body is provided with adequate resources and staffing support to carry out its functions in the most effective way. At the same time, the ICAED stresses the importance to continue maintaining an effective WGEID, fully staffed and with sufficient resources as well.  The ICAED believes that the WGEID and the CED have to work in a coordinated manner.

The ICAED emphasizes the importance of both UN bodies.  The ICAED, thus calls on all States to cooperate with and to provide their support to the WGEID as well as to the new CED.

In as much as the ICAED calls for the support of both the WGEID and the CED, it expresses its willingness to contribute its wealth of expertise to the forthcoming exercises concerning the implementation of the Convention as well as the establishment of the jurisprudence of the CED.   It likewise urges both bodies to have an open consultative process including civil society, in particular, families’ organizations for the development of their rules of procedure and working methods.

The ICAED expresses the crucial importance of States to seriously engage in the fight against impunity and enforce by all means their obligation to investigate, prosecute and sanction those responsible for enforced disappearance and serious international crimes.

The ICAED calls on all States to ratify and fully implement the Convention and to recognize the competence of the CED pursuant to Articles 31 and 32 of the Convention and which are systematically included among the criteria applied by the Universal Periodic Review.  It further calls on all States to adopt domestic legislation to criminalize the autonomous offense of enforced disappearance and to ensure the prevention and punishment of this practice.  Corollary to this, the ICAED recommends that States take into consideration the Amnesty International (AI) publication, “No Impunity for Enforced Disappearance: Checklist for the Effective Implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” in the drafting of relevant national legislation.

Finally, the ICAED underscores the continuing crime of enforced disappearance for it continues to violate the rights of the victims and to inflict endless sufferings on their families and relatives.  Thus, sustainability of our efforts is deemed important as the theme of this International Conference states: “Linking Our Solidarity; Strengthen Our Unity; Renew Our Commitment Towards the Ratification of the International Treaty Against Enforced Disappearances.”

 

Participating Organizations to the ICAED International Conference on Enforced Disappearances

November 7-9, 2011 Geneva Switzerland

Asian Federation Against Enforced Disappearances (AFAD)
Al-Ata’a for Human Rights Support-Iraq
Amnesty International
Asamblea Permante por los Derechos Humanos – Argentina
Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, Ejecuciones Extrajudiciales y Torturados Huancayo-Junín (AFDDEET) -Peru
Association de Parents et Amis de Disparus au Maroc
Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos de El Salvador
Asociación para la Recuperacion de la Memoria Historia de Catalunya (ARMHC)
Breaking the Wall of Silence-Namibia
Centro de los Derechos Humanos y Talleres Productivos Qatari Panituri-Peru
Colegio de Abogados – Peru
Collectif des Families De Disparus en Algerie
Comision de Derechos Humanos (COMISEDH)-Peru

Comité de Coordination des Familles des Disparus au Maroc (CCFDM)- Morocco
Equipo Peruano de Antropologia Forense – Peru
Federation Internationale de l’ACAT (FIACAT)
Federation Internationale des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH)
Fédération Euroméditérannéenne Contre Les Disparitions forcées (FEMED)
Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos (FEDEFAM)
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists
Jardin des Disparus
Liga Guatemalteca de Higiene Mental – Guatemala
Russian Justice Initiative
Track Impunity Always
Torture Abolition and Support Coalition
Civil Initiative We Remember -Belarus
Zimbabwe Peace Project

 

Categories: Statements Tags:

AFAD PRESS STATEMENT: Attempts to Destroy Monument of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka, A Grievous Offense Against Victims and Their Families.

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

AFAD Press Statement
28 October 2011

Attempts to Destroy Monument of the Disappeared, A Grievous Offense Against Victims and Their Families

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) joins the Sri Lankan families of the disappeared victims in remembering their loved ones subjected to disappearances during the annual commemoration at the Monument for the Disappeared in Raddoluwa Junction in Seeduwa., Sri Lanka. This year is the 21st commemoration of the Monument.

Between 1987 and 1991, disappearances in Sri Lanka had reached 30,000. These proportions and the failure of the Sri Lankan government to address the alarming occurrence of disappearances and prosecute perpetrators led to the construction of the Monument for the Disappeared in 1991.

The Monument serves as a constant reminder of the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government against its own people. For a couple of decades, it has become the place for families to honor their disappeared loved ones – where they grieve, light candles, put flowers and offer prayers. After more than two decades of annual commemorations, the Monument continues to stand as a concrete reminder that the cases of disappearances must not be forgotten. It constantly urges families of victims and the greater society to continue the search for the truth, to pursue justice and to prevent recurrence.

With remembering the victims comes the recognition that disappearances exist and can be committed against anyone. Recent threats of the Raddoluwa parish priest, Rev. Father Prasad Perera to destroy the Monument for the Disappeared showed an alarming picture of the malicious actions to obliterate the memory of the victims. The proposed demolition of the monument is a manifestation of an evil intention to bury the truth and for the Sri Lankan public and the rest of the world to disregard the existence of disappearances in the country.

The attempt to destroy the concrete remembrance of the disappeared victims is a direct insult to the victims and a grievous offense at that. It is an obvious disregard of the reality of the injustice committed against them. It is an affront to the families’ continuing search for truth and justice for the stolen lives of their loved ones.

On this occasion, the AFAD joins the Families of the Disappeared (FOD) and its partner organizations in their resistance against the proposed demolition.

The Monument of the Disappeared should continue to stand as an integral part of the continuing reconstruction of the desaparecidos’ historical memory. With the Monument standing conspicuously, the Sri Lankan people and the rest of the world shall serve as a shadow of the disappeared that would never leave us. As long as the memories of the victims and the violation are remembered, the efforts to attain truth and redress shall not cease. The hope for justice shall remain alive in the hearts of the families left behind.

 

PDF file: http://www.scribd.com/doc/70605261/AFAD-STATEMENT-Attempts-to-Destroy-Monument-of-the-Disappeared

 

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