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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

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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

AFAD Open Letter to Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa to expedite investigation on Razeek case

8 August 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) is a regional federation of human rights organizations working directly on the issue of enforced or involuntary disappearances.

We are writing to appeal to your office the case of Mr. Pattani Razeek.

Mr. Razeek, a Managing Trustee of the Community Trust Fund (CTF) in Puttalam and Executive Committee Member of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) disappeared on February 11, 2010 while he was travelling to Polonnaruwa. He was last seen getting inside a van near the Jumma Mosque in Kaduruwela. After the incident, his family received phone calls from his mobile phone with attempts to produce huge amounts of money in exchange for Mr. Razeek’s release.

We have received reports that the remains of the internationally recognized human rights disappeared defender Mr. Pattani Razeek were exhumed in Kavathamunai, Oddamavadi, Valaichenai province on July 28, 2011 and the post mortem held on August 2, 2011 in Batticaloa. We have also heard from our partners that shops in the Puttalam town and nearby towns were shut down on August 3, 2011, with banners displayed in public places condemning the murder and calling to bring perpetrators to justice. This indicates the massive public outrage in the area against the killing of Mr. Razeek.

The Federation is saddened by the tragic end to the search for Mr. Razeek. Individuals responsible for the disappearance and killing of Mr. Razeek must be brought before the judiciary immediately.

In this light, the Federation appeals for the following urgent interventions on the case to expedite the transparent investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of Mr. Razeek’s disappearance by:

• Questioning and arresting all persons who were in the vehicle driven by one of the suspects, Mr. Musdeen, which was the vehicle used when Mr. Razeek was abducted.

• Questioning and arresting all persons who were in the vehicle with the other suspect, Mr. Nowshaadh, who had admitted to meeting Mr. Razeek in the area on the date he was last seen.

• Questioning and arresting Mr. Irshan, senior staff of Minister Rishard Bathiudeen, who had claimed that Mr. Razeek was in custody of the Defense Ministry.

• Investigating whether Minister Rishard Bathiudeen and former CTF Trustee Mr. Mustafa Nihmath had any direct or indirect involvement in the killing and abduction of Mr. Razeek, based on public calls for citing their involvement by the family, Mosque leaders and the thousands that gathered for Mr. Razeek’s funeral on August 3, 2011.

The development on the case of Mr. Razeek has again brought before the international community the issue of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka.

Thus, we are appealing to your office to issue an official invitation to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country again and to reinstate the state obligations by signing and ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons form Enforced Disappearance.

Such actions are in compliance with Sri Lanka’s state obligations to ensure that no citizen under any circumstance shall be subjected to enforced disappearance; no person will be deprived of liberty unless he or she is formally charged with a criminal offense. Every person has the right to truth, reparation and the right to equal protection before the law and should enjoy an environment in which he or she can be defended under the rule of law.

It is only through truth and justice that genuine and lasting reconciliation and peace can be attained.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

(Sgd.) MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO                 (Sgd.)  MUGIYANTO
Secretary-General                                     Chairperson

Copy furnished to: 

1. Mr. Jeremy J. Sarkin
Chairperson
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
c/o OHCHR-UNOG CH-1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland

2. Committee on Enforced Disappearance (CED) 
Human Rights Treaties Division (HRTD)
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson – 52, rue des Pâquis, CH-1201 Geneva (Switzerland)

A pdf version of the official communication can be viewed at the following link:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/61827528/AFAD-Open-Letter-to-Sri-Lanka-President-Mahinda-Rajapaksa

China: UN expert body seriously concerned about Tibetan monks reportedly subjected to enforced disappearance

8 June 2011

GENEVA – The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances* on Wednesday voiced its serious concern and urged the Chinese authorities to disclose the fate and whereabouts of all those who have been subject to enforced disappearances in China, including a group of Tibetan monks whose fate or whereabouts still remain unknown.

On 21 April 2011, more than 300 monks of the Ngaba Kirti Monastery, located in Ngaba County, Sichuan Province, were allegedly arrested and taken to unknown destinations in ten military trucks. The arrests were reportedly carried out by agents from the People’s Armed Police, the Public Security Bureau and the People’s Liberation Army.

“We call on the authorities to provide full information on the fate and the whereabouts of the persons who have disappeared,” said the Working Group, noting that it is reported that some of the monks have been released. “We encourage the authorities to undertake full investigations into the on-going practice of enforced disappearances and ensure that those responsible are prosecuted and receive sentences appropriate to the gravity of the crime.”

“Enforced disappearance is a terrible practice that must not be permitted to occur anywhere and no exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked to justify an enforced disappearance,” the Working Group stressed. “Family members should be promptly informed on the fate and whereabouts of people reportedly disappeared. Those who have suffered the fate of being subject to an enforced disappearance should be provided with integral reparations.”

The expert body reiterated that “China has an obligation to abide by the strictest standards in the field of human rights. It also should fully cooperate with the UN special procedures and in particular with the Working Group.”(See: China – UN expert body concerned about recent wave of enforced disappearances: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10928&LangID=E)

The Working Group also called on China to fulfill its promise to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance and accept the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals, as stated in the Convention.

(*) The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa) and the other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon) and Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France).

ENDS

The Working Group was established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group’s humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established.

The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

For more information on the WGEID, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/index.htm

How to submit cases to the WGEID? Log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/docs/How_to_use_the_WGEID.pdf

Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance: http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/A.RES.47.133.En?OpenDocument

OHCHR Country Page – China: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/CNIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests:
Ms. Giovanna Zucchelli (Tel.:+ 41 22 917 9189 / e-mail: gzucchelli@ohchr.org)
Mr. Matías Pellado (Tel.: +41 22 917 9336 / e-mail: mpellado@ohchr.org)

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Disappeared But Always Remembered

Joint Statement of AFAD and FIND

International Week of the Disappeared (29 May to 4 June 2011)

29 May 2011

 

 

Every last week of May, the families of the disappeared and human rights advocates around the world join together in commemorating the International Week of the Disappeared.  Here in the Philippines, from May 29 to June 4 this year, we remember and honor all the desaparecidos who were snatched from the bosom of their families and society and made to suffer the unknown ordeal.  Their memories live on in our hearts and minds.

 

The International Week of the Disappeared which began as a local tide of protest of the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared-Detainees (FEDEFAM) more than three decades ago eventually grew into a global tidal wave against the abominable practice of enforced disappearance even as it is an expression of international solidarity for the disappeared and their familiesOur continuing observance of this occasion reflects the continuing character of enforced disappearance as much as it mirrors the unabated commission of this state-perpetrated heinous offense.

 

Cases upon cases from the past to the present remain unresolved. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (UNWGEID), in its 2010 Annual Report, attests that enforced disappearance is a major human rights concern of 83 countries.  Asia, which has no strong regional mechanisms for redress and no domestic laws penalizing disappearance as a separate and autonomous criminal offense, is the continent with the highest number of cases.

 

Enforced disappearance is a grim reality in the Philippines. Families of the disappeared continue to search and wait for their disappeared loved ones. The persistence of disappearances in the country speaks of how pervasive this odious problem has been and continues to be. The Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) as of May 2011 has documented 1,820 out of 2,160 victims of disappearance from the dark years of  martial law up to the present administration.  Seven victims have been reported under the present Aquino administration. This only proves that the commission of enforced disappearance persists with impunity.

 

As the human rights situation remains critical and uncertain, the surviving victims and families turned human rights defenders refuse to passively await justice.   They have kept the memory of their disappeared loved ones alive by steadfastly searching for them, vigorously demanding the truth from their own governments and tirelessly working towards guarantees of non-repetition.

Despite efforts to combat impunity of this global scourge at the national and international levels, much ought to be done to eradicate it from the face of the earth. One concrete measure is to compel all governments to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  This Convention, which provides for the right to truth and the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, was adopted in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly and entered into force on 23 December 2010. To date, this international human rights instrument has 88 signatories and 26 States parties. It is equally important for States to penalize enforced disappearance in their statute books as mandated by the Convention.  The Philippines is not yet a signatory much less a State party to this Convention.

 

We therefore urge President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to fulfill the government’s voluntary pledges and commitments submitted to the UN Human Rights Council as early as 2007 by signing this treaty and endorsing the immediate passage of an anti-disappearance law as concrete steps towards realizing his promise of “providing truth and complete justice for all.”  The President being a son of a human rights victim himself should be more acutely aware of his responsibility to resolve the past and present human rights violations and prevent further transgressions. He even claimed during his inauguration that when we allow crimes to go unpunished, we give consent to their occurring over and over again”. It is about time for him to walk the talk. This, he owes to the Filipino people whom he considers to be his boss.

 

As we pay tribute to all desaparecidos, we pledge our staunch commitment to relentlessly pursue the search for the truth, to bring individual perpetrators to justice and hold the State accountable, and to redeem the dignity of the victims and their families.

 

Our dear desaparecidos may not be physically present with us but they are definitely not forgotten. Their memories always emit a glimmer of hope and rekindle our spirit to dream and sustain our collective struggle to make the inhuman offense of enforced disappearance finally disappear.

 

 

 ♠

 

 

ASIAN FEDERATION AGAINST INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES (AFAD)

&

FAMILIES OF VICTIMS OF INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCE (FIND)

THE VOICE March 2011 (Vol 11 No.1)

March 3, 2011 1 comment
We are pleased to inform you that the electronic version of the March 2011 issue of The Voice is now ready. You can download it from here http://www.scribd.com/doc/49849325

The Voice is the official publication of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances.