Mr. Jeremy Sarkin, Extraordinary Professor of the University of South Africa, former Chairperson-Rapporteur and incumbent member of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID) will visit the country in his personal capacity as a UN expert on May 29, 2012. He will join the families of the disappeared and other human rights groups in the commemoration of the International Week of the Disappeared.
“The families of the victims of enforced disappearance around the world annually observe on the last week of May the International Week of the Disappeared following the Latin American tradition to pay tribute to all desaparecidos,” Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso said.
Bacalso is the Secretary General of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), a regional human rights organization of families of the disappeared and human rights advocates working directly on the phenomenon of enforced disappearance in the Asian region.
“We have invited Mr. Sarkin to help us convince the Philippine government to immediately sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and to enact the anti-enforced disappearance law without further delay. It is done on the occasion of the International Week of the Disappeared and when the Philippines will be subjected to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.”
The UPR is a special UN mechanism conducted every four years by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which is composed of 47 UN Member-States to scrutinize the human rights records of UN Member-States and propose for recommendations. The Philippines went through the UPR in 2008 and is scheduled for a second cycle in Geneva on May 29, 2012.
“Disappointingly, until now, the Philippines is not yet a signatory much less a State-Party to the Convention despite having cited its signing and ratification as one of its voluntary pledges in the UN Human Rights Council when it ran for membership in 2007, ” she stated.
Bacalso also pointed out that the relatives of the disappeared in the Philippines have been lobbying the Philippine Congress for almost two decades to pass a law defining and penalizing enforced disappearance. The Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives last year approved on third and final reading their own versions of the proposed law. It now awaits the bicameral committee meeting for its consolidation and submission to the President for signing.
“It is about time for the President to make a strong statement on human rights by pursuing the rights violators so that victims can get justice. The anti-disappearance treaty and the anti-enforced disappearance bill are two legal measures which, if acted upon by the government, would serve as concrete steps towards ensuring state accountability and ending impunity for human rights violations,” she said.
Mr. Sarkin will be attending different activities during his visit. The visit of any UN officer in the country is deemed official when invited by governments. The UNWGEID has an outstanding request for an official invitation from the Philippine government. During his visit, Mr. Sarkin will meet with relatives of the victims in the Consultative Dialogue with selected legislators on May 31, 9 a.m. – 12 noon at the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City. He will then speak before the members of diplomatic corps, government representatives and non-government organizations in the National Human Rights Forum on June 1, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance have requested for an appointment with President Aquino, but to date, Malacanang has not granted it.
“Giving us an audience is a sign of political will of the Philippine Government to end enforced disappearance and to end impunity in the country, ” Bacalso concluded.
International Week of the Disappeared (IWD)
29 May – 02 June 2012
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