International Day of the Disappeared, 30 August 2010
REVISITING THE CHRONICLES OF COURAGE
OF THE WORLD’S DESAPARECIDOS
A JOINT STATEMENT ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE DISAPPEARED
30 August 2010 – Today we honor all persons who have become victims of enforced disappearance all over the world. As we observe the International Day of the Disappeared, we revisit the chronicles of courage and self sacrifice of the desaparecidos which remind us that the commission of involuntary disappearance particularly against suspected enemies of the state persists with impunity.
The abominable global offense, a State-perpetrated violence, has spawned violations of practically all human rights. Precious lives are snuffed out, civil liberties curtailed, voices of protest and resistance muffled amidst a chilling culture of impunity.
Putting an end to enforced disappearance poses a great challenge to human rights advocates and defenders. Far greater is to successfully compel states to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and ensure that enforced disappearance constitutes a criminal offense in their statute books.
Learning from the Philippine experience, it is possible to enact special laws criminalizing human rights violations. In November last year the Philippines enacted Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law. Lamentably, the proposed law defining and penalizing enforced or involuntary disappearance still awaits congressional imprimatur even as the Convention remains unsigned.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) strongly urge Philippine President Simeon Benigno Aquino III and the Chief Executives of Timor Leste, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and Nepal to take the lead in effecting their respective states’ signing and/or ratification of the Convention. (India is a signatory but not yet a state party).
To date, the international instrument has 83 signatories and 19 state parties. The Netherlands is reported to have virtually reserved for the 20th slot that will mark the Convention’s entry into force. Shouldn’t AFAD’s member organizations’ respective states and other Asian states race to be the 20th state party and show to the world that they are sincere in upholding human dignity and human rights more particularly the right not to be disappeared?
This morning we launch “Unsilenced,” the AFAD video documentary on the disappearance of the six PICOP (paper factory) workers in Agusan del Sur in the Southern Philippines. The families of the six desaparecidos adamantly refuse to be silent and have remained courageous and steadfast in the quest for justice even as FIND has been unrelenting in giving assistance and support to the families and witnesses from Day One of the legal battle.
With growing support from the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), AFAD and kindred groups, the families are more inspired to pursue the fight to its final resolution. Amidst daunting challenges, they stand resolute, brave and hopeful to duplicate in the multiple murder case which is now in the Office of the Provincial Prosecutors in Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur their 2008 landmark victory in the kidnapping and serious illegal detention case in the Agusan del Sur Regional Trial Court.
As we pay tribute to the world’s desaparecidos, we also salute their families more particularly those who fought hard for the United Nations’ adoption of the Convention and work harder for its entry into force. We also take our hats off to those who tirelessly lobby governments to enact anti-enforced or involuntary disappearance domestic laws. These laws that seek to combat impunity serve as an enduring tribute to the desaparecidos.
Let there be no more PICOP 6 to search and grieve for. Let there be no more perpetrators of enforced disappearance in Asia and the whole world.