Bold policy changes come as Prime Minister seeks to bolster popularity ahead of election, say analysts
Critics and the opposition have long blamed these laws for curbing civil liberties and silencing dissent in the country.
Bowing to pressure, the announcements come as Mr Najib seeks to bolster his flagging popularity ahead of likely snap polls early next year. While welcoming the policy changes, widely regarded as the boldest by Mr Najib since he took the helm in April 2009, opposition leaders and political analysts were cautious about the laws that would replace the ISA and their implementation.
“I am happy to announce on this historic night that the ISA will be completely repealed,” Mr Najib said in a nationally-televised speech on the eve of Malaysia Day.
Before an audience of about 800, which included his entire Cabinet, Mr Najib added: “The changes are aimed at having a modern, mature and functioning democracy which will continue to preserve public order, ensure greater civil liberty and maintain racial harmony.”
The ISA has long been a hot-button issue in Malaysia. Over the past five decades, thousands of people in Malaysia have been detained for a variety of crimes under the ISA, which allows for indefinite detention without trial.
Apart from suspected terrorists, the law has also been used against communists, forgery experts, religious militants and even opposition politicians – prompting critics to argue that in Malaysia the ISA has often been abused by the government to stifle dissent.
The ISA and the Emergency Ordinance, which allows suspects to be detained without charge for up to two years, will be replaced by two new laws.
Mr Najib said the new security laws would be introduced for preventive detention, be limited only to cases of terrorism and “ensure that basic human rights are protected”.
Under the new laws, detentions could only be extended by the court and therefore “the power of detention will be shifted from the executive to the judiciary, unless it concerns terrorism”, he added.
Later in the night, de facto Law Minister Mohamed Nazri Aziz said the legislations replacing the ISA would still allow for detention without trial but only for “terrorists”, reported The Malaysian Insider.
“The new laws are strictly for terrorism. What we are going to do now is enact similar laws like the Patriot Act in the US or the UK … We have once and for all decided that no laws should be enacted allowing for individuals to be arrested for having a difference in ideologies,” he was quoted as saying.
Malaysia’s strict media law will also be amended to allow a one-time licensing of media outlets instead of annual renewals which critics say the government has used to threaten newspapers against publishing dissenting views.
Other laws which restrict civil liberties would be reviewed, and Mr Najib pledged that the government would not detain any individuals merely on the basis of their political ideology.
“Many will question whether I am moving too far, too fast. Some will say that the reforms should only be carried out in small steps, or not at all,” Mr Najib, said in the address.
“To them I say, if a reform is the right thing to do, now is the right time to do it,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the changes may result in “short-term pain for me politically”.
The move to scrap the law has been hailed Penang Chief Minister Lim Guang Eng and an ex-ISA detainee himself as an “epochal move”.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim tweeted in Malay: “ISA: Welcome its abolition after being championed by the people all this while and opposed by Umno. However, need to be mindful …”
The next general election is not due until 2013 but Mr Najib is likely to call one in the next six months amid growing uncertainty about the global economic outlook, analysts say.
Despite making record gains in a 2008 general election, the Opposition led by Mr Anwar has struggled to build on that momentum, and is plagued by infighting.
But analysts say Mr Najib’s own troubles run deep and yesterday’s announcement may not be enough to reverse the ruling Barisan Nasional’s 2008 poll losses, which he needs to do to remain firmly in power.
“This will be attractive to the more educated and critical classes, typically urban professionals and minority non-Malays, but this group will also look to see whether or not this will be translated into credible change,” said Mr Ibrahim Suffian, director of the independent polling outfit the Merdeka Center.
“Najib is defining his agenda for political reform, but the devil will be in the details in whether he can translate these promises into concrete implementation,” said Ms Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia specialist at Singapore Management University.
“Institutions like the police and judiciary are also still criticised as not being independent so while he’s embraced political reforms he has touched only the surface of it,” she added.
Breaking Impunity will end the Legacy of Martial Law: AFAD Statement on the 39th Anniversary of Martial law
21 September 2011
Breaking Impunity will end the Legacy of Martial Law
AFAD Statement on the 39th Anniversary of Martial law
Today, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) joins the whole nation in commemorating of the 39th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.
Our manner of commemorating the event is the reiteration of our call to Pres. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to learn from the lessons of our history by making human rights its top priority and breaking impunity.
Thirty-nine years since President Ferdinand E. Marcos placed the Philippines under Martial Law through Proclamation No. 1081 which suspended the civil rights and liberties of the Filipino people by imposing military authority in the country. The chilling effects of these dark pages of our history are still felt until today.
Human rights are continuously being violated. What makes it more disturbing is that violations persist with complete impunity. The Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) has documented 2,160 victims of enforced disappearance since martial law. Ten cases have been reported under the present Aquino administration with the military involvement. Unfortunately until now not a single perpetrator has been punished.
The scenarios of warrantless arrests, arbitrary detentions and illegal searches which were common practices during Martial Law are still in effect until today. While the military claims that it already adopted a new security policy called the Oplan Bayanihan, said to be a paradigm shift from the combat-focused approach to a human security or “people-centered” approach, the primacy of military solution is still deeply embedded in the whole institution. It allows security forces to ignore the fundamental rules of law and due process in the conduct of military operations. The Oplan Bayanihan is just another name of Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch), the counter-insurgency program of the previous administration which led the military to deliberately target and systematically hunt down leaders of leftist organizations, resulting in hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country.
The disappearance case of a teenager from the Dumagat tribe of the Burdeous Municipality in Quezon province, who was abducted on 23 August 2011 by six armed men pretending to be members of New People’s Army but later revealed to be members of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Armed forces of the Philippines and Civilian Volunteers Organization is but one of the recent examples of red hunting. The teenager was held in custody against his will for almost two weeks in the military camp where he was repeatedly interrogated and intimidated. He was later released when his family, with the help of Franciscan missionaries, sought the help of the public to search for him. The military denied abducting the teenager and claimed that he merely availed himself of the government’s social integration program for rebel returnees.
If indeed, the military believes that ‘winning peace” could be achieved through the continuing attack against any individuals or groups perceived to be supporters or members of the insurgent groups through political harassment, vilification campaign and criminalization of political offense, it is doomed to repeat the mistakes of history.
It is a historical truth that when people are suppressed, they learn to fight back. This reality was what ignited the people to struggle against the dictator which inevitably paved the road to EDSA, including the martyrdom of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and assumption to power of the late Pres. Corazon C. Aquino.
PNoy should keep his name as a symbol of democracy. As the new commander-in-chief, he is duty bound to lead his Armed Forces in performing its inherent obligation as the protector of the people. He has in his hands the opportunity to learn from the difficult lessons of the dark years of martial rule by guaranteeing human rights protection and accountability.
When he said during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) that reconciliation can only be achieved when justice is rendered, this should not mean buying to the idea of giving military honor to the late dictator and promising the compensation for victims of Martial Law. The Marcoses should continue to be held responsible for their crimes against the Filipino people and all others who followed the sinister means to keep themselves in power.
Today, we pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in fighting against the dictator in order for freedom and democracy to live. We will keep their memory alive in our hearts and minds as we continue the struggle for truth, justice, and redress with the resounding voice of commitment, chanting: “Nunca Mas!” (Never Again!)
Signed and authenticated by:
MARY AILEEN DIEZ-BACALSO
- Exigir la liberación inmediata de los niños Santos Bernabé Cruz Aldana de 16 años y Darwin Leonel Cartagena de 15 años.
- Solicitar la actuación inmediata para brindar toda la protección necesaria a todos los niños y niñas, jóvenes, mujeres y adultos mayores de las comunidades campesinas, sobre los cuales pesan las amenazas de las fuerzas de seguridad del Estado de Honduras.
- Exigir la inmediata desmilitarización de la Zona del Aguan que está causando graves violaciones a los derechos humanos.
- Condenar públicamente la represión indiscriminada a los campesinos y exigir al Estado de Honduras se comprometan a proteger a las comunidades campesinas del Aguan.
- Solicitar una investigación urgente, exhaustiva e imparcial sobre los hechos que ponen en riesgo la vida de las y los campesinos organizados del Aguan, hagan públicos sus resultados y lleven a los responsables ante la justicia;
‘TRC, an insult for victims’
Friday, 09 Sep 2011 at 10:33
Khurram Parvez is the coordinator of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) that works to build alliances among Kashmiri civil society groups. He is the winner of Reebok Human Rights Award for his outstanding contribution to highlight the human rights violation in Kashmir.
In an interview with Rising Kashmir reporter, Mansoor Altaf, the activist talks about the recently released report by SHRC about unidentified graves.
1. How J and K Coalition of Civil Society view the disclosure of unmarked graves by State Human Rights Commission?
The revelation made by SHRC is the phenomena of both the mass graves and the unidentified ones. They have also acknowledged that the persons buried in these graves are those whom police has handed over to the local population or buried themselves.
Our group has found 2700 graves in 62 graveyards across north Kashmir, out of which 2373 are unmarked graves and mass graves. These graves contained 2943 bodies with such 100 graves that had more than two persons buried in them. The Police Investigation Wing of SHRC visited only 38 graveyards and found almost the same number of graves. We are demanding that SHRC should widen the investigation all over J&K and identify every single unmarked grave.
2.What about the formation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission announced by CM in this regard.
The Chief Minister of our state is confusing the issue by saying that this is the normal phenomena to bury dead without any tombstone rural Kashmir. By saying that he is discrediting his own state institution which is also saying that these are those graves which consist the dead handed over by police to locals for burial.
Why is CM confusing the public opinion when it is a very clear cut issue? This is the issue of those graves which government has no record. The government has no identification profile of those buried in these graves.Under the law the procedure should have been to maintain their DNA profile, take their finger prints, conduct post mortems and have photographic evidence. In any Police
station you won’t find any record of the persons buried in these graves. If they have not maintained a record, why should people believe them On the issue of constituting TRC, we believe it is being done to continue impunity. The impunity which today exists in the name of AFSPA and other provisions of CRPC but in future it will be there in the name of TRC. TRC is burial of justice.
3. Are you saying T&R commission is nothing but another time buying tactic of the government?
When Omar Abdullah said TRC should be created, it was the biggest insult to the family members of those who have disappeared. Firstly they were deprived of the justice, and now you are framing a Commission which will identify the perpetrator only to forgive him. When in India the ministers are jailed for breaking law, then why impunity is provided to those who are committing such heinous crimes here.
Under the TRC people will be asked to identify the unmarked graves of the disappeared relatives, when they do not even know whether they are dead or alive. They are mocking at the plight of these families.
After the SHRC report was leaked by the media, Mr. Abdullah said he will discuss it with Unified High Command which is a security group. When Indian parliament can convene a special session to discuss Anna Hazare’s fast, why cant the state assembly convene a session to discuss the issue of mass graves. On the one hand they are beating the drums of huge participation of people in Panchayat elections, but what they gave them in return?
4. But as per CM those buried in the unidentified graves are the foreign militants killed during the encounters?
As per the SHRC report, around 574 people buried in these unmarked graves after being claimed as foreign militants were later identified as local residents. This is an idictment against the state authorities. That proves all who are buried in these graves are not foreign militants. Our group has studied 53 exhumations which government has ordered from time to time, we found among them 49 were local civilians, 1 was militant and the rest three were unidentified. So when majority of those exhumed were locals, it negates the theory that those buried are all foreign militants.
However we are not saying all of the buried are local civilians, we simply want to know who these people are. Government has to provide the record, as there are more than 8000 people missing in Kashmir who cannot disappear without any apparent reason. This gives a solid justification as either they are languishing in jails, army camps or buried in these graves.
5.What should be the proper procedure as per you to identify those buried in unmarked graves?
We are saying they should establish the identity with DNA profiling. SHRC is also saying the government should match the DNA with the families members of those who claim their relatives have gone missing. However DNA profiling is not enough. We want comprehensive forensic examination which will clearly ascertain the date of death of that person and the circumstances which led to his death.
The perpetrators who commit such crimes have impunity of AFSPA therefore they cannot be prosecuted. Unless the perpetrators are not prosecuted, the deterrence cannot be created to protect human rights.
7. But Omar has openly criticized the army for not cooperating with regard to ending the AFSPA?
Army cannot be prosecuted under the security of AFSPA, but what about the local police who are equally perpetrating the crimes and are not prosecuted. They are confusing people when they say, army doesn’t cooperate. But can I ask why police doesn’t respect the human rights that are not saved by any special law.
8.We cannot deny that there are some people who were killed by militant. So families of those who were killed or disappeared by militants, where will they get justice from?
Obviously from the government whose responsibility is to protect the life and property of people. If any militants have abducted some person, it is the responsibility of government to prosecute them.Also in case of Kashmiri Pandits, it is the
responsibility of government to identify the person who were involved in their killings and prosecute them accordingly. Our demand is that government should book all those who are involved in the killing or enforced disappearance of the civilians whether army men or some other.
But what they do is make someone a scapegoat. For example in the Surankote fake encounter, when army killed a mentally challenged person in the name of a militant they recovered a weapon from him, where did that weapon came from?
BREVE INFORME SOBRE LA SITUACIÓN DE LAS DESAPARICIONES FORZADAS EN LA
1. Panorama histórico a partir de la dictadura (1976-2011)
La detención desaparición de personas que asoló nuestro país antes de la última dictadura militar y, planificada y sistemáticamente, durante su transcurso, y cuyas consecuencias perduran, motivó que brotara un fuerte movimiento argentino de defensa de los derechos humanos cuyo símbolo trascendente son las Madres y Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo y los Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Políticas, los tres organismos asociados a FEDEFAM y parte dinámica en su constitución y desarrollo, culminado en diciembre de 2006, como todos sabemos, por la sanción de la Convención Internacional para la Protección de Todas las Personas contra la Desaparición Forzada.
La búsqueda de Verdad y Justicia dentro y fuera del país, iniciada en la primera ronda de las Madres en la Plaza de Mayo en abril de 1977, no ha cesado. Hoy, a 34 años de distancia, recordamos las distintas etapas de la historia nacional que han permitido diversificar los reclamos sin abandonar jamás los principios fundadores.
1.1. La lucha contra la impunidad
Los gobiernos constitucionales surgidos a partir de diciembre de 1983 iniciaron algunas medidas de reparación y búsqueda de justicia, como el histórico juicio a los comandantes de las Juntas Militares en 1985 y algunas leyes de reparación económica y liberación del servicio militar a hijos y hermanos de detenidos desaparecidos. Pero la enorme presión de poderes económico-militar nacionales y transnacionales y, a veces, la falaz ideología de varios gobernantes, motivaron medidas de apoyo a la impunidad, como las leyes alfonsinistas “de punto final” en 1986 y “de obediencia debida” en 1987 y los indultos menemistas de 1989 y 1990. La fuerza del reclamo anti-impunidad del movimiento de derechos humanos consiguió en 2003 la anulación de esas leyes por el Congreso, que las consideró inconstitucionales, la ratificación de esa inconstitucionalidad por la Corte Suprema de Justicia y, por fin, la declaración de inconstitucionalidad de los indultos por la Corte en agosto de 2010. Puede decirse, por tanto, que hace un año exacto la impunidad encontró su sentencia de muerte.
1.2. Los juicios con consecuencias penales.
Desde 2005 fueron resurgiendo los juicios penales soterrados por la impunidad, a los que se van agregando numerosos procesos nuevos contra los “viejos” crímenes de lesa humanidad. Actualmente, las Madres y familiares no damos abasto para asistir a las audiencias judiciales en el vasto territorio nacional. Falta mucho aún, pero seguimos avanzando en estos procesos penales sin parangón en el mundo, con jueces naturales, en juzgados nacionales y con todas las garantías constitucionales.
Por otra parte, en 13 de abril de 2011 se sancionó por ley la incorporación al Código Penal del delito de desaparición forzada de personas, respetando la definición que da la Convención y asignando penas de 10 a 25 años a los perpetradores, o prisión perpetua en caso de muerte del detenido desaparecido o también si este es mujer embarazada, menor, mayor de 70 años o discapacitado. Lástima que esta ley no pueda aplicarse, según mayoría de los expertos, a los imputados en los juicios de lesa humanidad. Sin embargo, el tema de la imprescriptibilidad seguirá en discusión.
La Secretaría de Derechos Humanos de la Nación, que actúa como querellante en numerosas causas judiciales, registra en agosto de 2011 la cantidad de 237 condenados por delitos de lesa humanidad.
1.3. Estadísticas proporcionadas por el CELS sobre el desarrollo de los Juicios. Julio 2011.
Situación procesal actual de los imputados en causas por delitos de lesa humanidad. Marzo de 2011
- Procesados con preventiva: 427
- Procesados sin preventiva: 344
- Fallecidos: 276
- Denunciados: 269
- Condenados: 187
- Falta de Mérito: 105
- Sobreseídos: 46
- Prófugos: 39
- Indagados: 27
- Incapaces: 18
- Absueltos: 15
Total de causas en movimiento según estado procesal. Julio de 2011
- En etapa de instrucción: 71% (263)
- Elevaciones: 12,5 (46)
- Debates finalizados: 13% (49)
- Debates en curso: 3,5% (12)
Comparación de sentenciados con el resto de los imputados en condiciones de llegar a juicio. Marzo de 2011
- Sentenciados: 13% (182)
- Resto de los imputados aptos para llegar a juicio: 87% (1237)
Condición de detención o libertad del total de imputados. Marzo de 2011.
- Libres: 46% (814)
- Detenidos: 36% (624)
- Fallecidos: 16% (280)
- Prófugos 2% (39)
Total de detenidos según situación procesal. Marzo de 2011.
- Procesados: 70% (428)
- Condenado: 26% (166)
- Denunciados: 2% (14)
- Indagado: 2% (15)
- 2. Números, porcentajes en relación con los detenidos desaparecidos
¿Cuántos detenidos desaparecidos hay en la Argentina? La CONADEP –Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas, creada en 1984- indicó en ese año que había registradas 8.961 personas. Hasta 2003 la Secretaría de Derechos Humanos de la Nación Argentina tenía registrados 13.000 casos. Por otro lado las asociaciones de FEDEFAM siempre declaramos que hay unos 30.000 compañeros detenidos desaparecidos. Esta cifra surgió de los cálculos que el Dr. Emilio Mignone y sus colegas del CELS –Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales- realizaron en 1978, sin posibilidad de comprobación pero en base a una escala concreta basada en la relación entre cantidad de desaparecidos denunciados y desaparecidos no denunciados en Mercedes, ciudad de unos 60.000 habitantes de la provincia de Buenos Aires.
Pero atención: según documentos desclasificados de archivos de inteligencia norteamericanos, el agente de la DINA chilena y operativo en la Argentina Enrique Arancibia Clavel informó en 1978 al Departamento de Estado que se estimaba el número de desaparecidos en 22.000 personas entre 1975 y julio de 1978. Y sabemos que numerosos detenidos desaparecidos no han sido denunciados por sus familiares por múltiples razones. El sacerdote canadiense Eloy Roy, por ejemplo, cuando era párroco de Tilcara (provincia de Jujuy), recordaba con frecuencia sus diálogos con familias ancianas residentes en la Quebrada de Humahuaca, que ignoraban por qué sus hijos habían sido llevados por la fuerza y encapuchados por hombres desconocidos. Es probable que la simbólica cifra de 30.000 sea incluso escasa.
La CONADEP indicó también la distribución de los detenidos desaparecidos por profesión u ocupación (en porcentajes):
- Obreros: 30,2%
- Estudiantes: 21,0%
- Empleados: 17,9%
- Profesionales: 17,8%
- Docentes: 5,7%
- Autónomos y varios: 5,0%
- Amas de casa: 3,8%
- Personal de Fuerzas de Seguridad: 2,5%
- Periodistas: 1,6%
- Actores y artistas: 1,3%
- Religiosos: 0,3%
- De 0 a 15 años: 1,65%
- De 16 a 25 años: 43,23%
- De 26 a 35 años: 38,16%
- De 36 a 45 años: 10,13%
- De 46 a 55 años: 4,25%
- De 56 a 65 años: 1,92%
- Más de 66 años: 0,66%
- En la vía pública: 24,6%
- El domicilio: 62,0%
- El trabajo: 7,0%
- Lugar de estudio: 6,0%
- Dependencia militar o policial: 0,4%
- De día: 38,0%
- De noche: 62,0%
Desaparecidos según edad
Lugar de desaparición
Momento de desaparición
Estos porcentajes registrados en 1984 pueden considerarse vigentes a la fecha.
Pero también el dolor sigue vigente. Ese dolor nos ha convertido en militantes, ha cimentado nuestra tenacidad. Las Madres somos muy ancianas, pero nuestros pies cansados no cesan en sus pasos. Cuando alguna de nosotras se va, las demás podemos hablarle a cada querido detenido desaparecido con palabras de Lily Canals, anciana poeta de San Nicolás (ciudad bonaerense):
Mi oído está aguzado para los
Me dice que ha perdido la luz
que prolongaba su memoria
el último vestigio de su sangre
el dolor obstinado que rondaba la plaza
su nombre entre otros nombres
junto a otros pies más jóvenes
más cansados. Minutos, meses, años
Cómo decirle que aunque nadie
ese cordón de amor alimentado en un
sostenemos una estrella encendida
y para todos los que una vez bajaron al
30 August 2011
A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE, A DAY OF ACTION
Today, we honor all victims of enforced disappearance, considered one of the cruelest forms of human rights violations. In 2010, recognizing the global magnitude of the crime and the never ending sufferings of thedesaparecidos’ families, the United Nations officially recognized August 30 as the International Day of the Disappeared. The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), which is the Focal Point of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances, joins all the families of the disappeared and human rights advocates world-wide in commemorating this day by resonating the call for an end to enforced disappearance and by renewing its organizational commitment to take action.
Enforced disappearance is an international phenomenon. It is a major concern of 94 countries based on the 2010 report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (UN WGEID). Many of these cases occur in 27 countries of Asia, a continent that has the highest number of cases submitted to the UNWGEID in recent years. Unfortunately, Asia lacks a strong regional mechanism for redress. No Asian country has a domestic law penalizing enforced disappearance as a separate and autonomous criminal offense. This condition perpetuates a climate of impunity allowing perpetrators to escape accountability and increasing possibilities for repetition.
Indeed, globally, thousands of people are forcibly disappeared by their own governments or individuals or groups acting on states’ authorization, support or acquiescence. Bereft of legal safeguards, they are often tortured, confined under constant fear or threat of death, and in many instances, murdered without any trace.
Their families are equally victimized, not knowing their loved ones’ fate and whereabouts and are put in a perpetual state of hope and despair, wondering and waiting, pleading and demanding for answers that may never ever come.
We reckon that enforced disappearance has a particular universal impact on women and children. Most of the disappeared are men. Hence, women who are usually left behind to tend to their families bear the brunt of serious hardships. When women are themselves direct victims of disappearance, they are particularly vulnerable to sexual and other forms of violence. The children of the disappeared are also victims. The disappearance of a child or of a parent is a serious violation of children’s rights.
As we remember all the desaparecidos of the world, we demand that the perpetrators of enforced disappearances be brought to justice. A concrete step to combat impunity is to urge all governments to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (The Convention). The Convention which was adopted in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly, entered into force on 23 December 2010. To date, this international human rights instrument has 88 signatories and 29 States Parties. To ensure its implementation, States are under the obligation to codify enforced disappearance in their statute of books. To note, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, composed of 10 individual experts, was established on 31 May 2011 to ensure the treaty’s implementation.
Today, member-organizations of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, through varying forms of public awareness, call for a stop to enforced disappearances and reiterate their call to all States to sign and ratify the Convention, recognize the competences of the Committee Against Enforced Disappearances, enact domestic laws penalizing enforced disappearance and end enforced disappearances NOW.
As we pay tribute to all the desaparecidos of the world, we must also highlight the long drawn struggle of the families and human rights organizations particularly in Asia to obtain truth and justice and to work for the complete eradication of enforced disappearance from the face of the earth.
The International Day of the Disappeared is a time to remember and in remembering, we must take action.
Signed and authenticated by:
MUGIYANTO MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO
Joint Statement of AFAD and FIND
On the Hunger Strike of Political Prisoners
12 August 2011
FREEDOM TO ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS, JUSTICE TO ALL DESAPARECIDOS
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) strongly urge the Philippine government to immediately release all political prisoners even as we lament the failure of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to heed with dispatch the prisoners’ call for freedom. Prompt and favorable response by government could have averted the current hapless condition of the political prisoners who are now on the 19th day of their hunger strike.
There are 318 political prisoners and detainees who are still languishing in various detention facilities all over the country according to the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP). But the Philippine government continues to deny them political recognition by charging them with common criminal offenses. It is a clear breach of international human rights and humanitarian laws, especially the right to liberty as well as the international standards of fair trial and other rights of detained and confined persons.
We, the families and friends of the victims of enforced disappearance, support the call of the political prisoners on the Philippine government to rectify their erroneous arrest and deprivation of liberty to pave the way not only for their immediate release but also to open the door for us to find our disappeared loved ones.
Most if not all political prisoners, have invariably disclosed that they have been subjected to enforced disappearance and various acts of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during the period of their arrest and custodial investigation. Some of them have been tortured to death like the case of the six PICOP (paper factory) workers in Agusan del Sur in the Southern Philippines whose tortured and lifeless bodies were burned to ashes by the members of the 62nd ID of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in October 2000.
While many among us would like to believe that our dear Desaparecidos are still unaccounted political prisoners, the possibility for those who have long been missing to have been mercilessly killed and unceremoniously dumped into some unmarked graves nags at our minds.
Enforced disappearance is an abominable tool resorted to by the State to eschew legitimate arrest and detention of political and social activists who are conveniently labeled as “Enemies of the State.” This also ensures the removal of hard evidence especially in case of secret disposal of dead bodies. It gives rise to multiple human rights transgressions as it violates the basic rights to liberty, due process of law and ultimately to life. Enforced disappearance undeniably creates a climate of uncertainty and terror for the victims and their families and society as a whole.
We, therefore, strongly urge the Philippine government to comply with its responsibilities under international law and fully respect human rights principles by putting an end to enforced disappearance and witch hunting as means to stifle political dissent.
One concrete step that the Philippine government should take is to accede without reservation to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The Convention, which upholds the right to truth and the non-derogability of the right against enforced disappearance, requires States to criminalize enforced disappearance in their statute books.
Should the Philippine government enact an Anti-Enforced Disappearance law, it will guarantee not only the prevention of the commission of enforced disappearance but also the illegal arrest and detention of political prisoners As the law would require an up-to-date registry of persons deprived of liberty among other safeguards against violation of their rights. It will also serve as a good example to other Asian States which are facing similar phenomena of illegal detention and enforced disappearances.
Time is indeed of the essence for human rights victims. President Aquino should act NOW. He should not treat the on-going hunger strike of political prisoners as merely a humanitarian issue but a basic political element towards attaining peace and justice in the country.
The President should recognize that the political prisoners are not common criminals but prisoners of conscience like his father, the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino Jr. even as he is duty bound to bring justice the perpetrators of enforced disappearance from the Marcos regime to his own dispensation.
ASIAN FEDERATION AGAINST INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES (AFAD)
FAMILIES OF VICTIMS OF INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCE (FIND)
Note: A pdf copy of the statement can be viewed at the following link: