[Statement] A Day of SOLIDARITY in the Struggle against IMPUNITY -AFAD

AFAD Statement on the Commemoration of International Day of the Disappeared, 30 August 2012

A Day of SOLIDARITY in the Struggle against IMPUNITY

Today as the world marks the International Day of the Disappeared declared by the United Nations in tribute to all desaparecidos, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) joins hand with all the families of the disappeared persons and human rights advocates around the world in pursuing the struggle against enforced disappearance and in ending impunity.

Enforced disappearance is a global phenomenon that necessitates a global response. Around the world, thousands of people are subjected to enforced disappearances by their own governments in the name of national security. In recent years, after 9/11, many of the cases are anchored on the US-led “war against terror.” This form of human rights violation is most prevalent in Asia being the continent with no strong regional human rights mechanism and no domestic laws to guarantee protection from enforced disappearance. To note, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances received the highest number of cases from Asia.

This dismal reality is reflected in Asian countries where our federation has member-organizations working on the issue.

In Bangladesh, cases of enforced disappearance are alarmingly increasing, thus, creating a climate of fear among the general populace. According to our member-organization, Odhikar, cases of disappearances compared to previous years, are on the rise. The group has already documented cases of nine people who have disappeared since January 2012. Many of the victims’ families believe that the security agencies are responsible for abducting their loved ones.

In the Indian occupied Kashmir, the Indian government-appointed State Human Rights Commission officially acknowledged for the first time, in September 2011, the presence of more than 2,000 unmarked mass graves not far from the Line of the Control that divides India and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. The Association of Parents of the Disappeared Persons (APDP) has been demanding for prompt and proper investigation of these mass graves but the Indian government remain indifferent to the issue of human rights violations particularly enforced disappearances and evidence of possible crimes against humanity committed by its own state security forces. In its report, the Commission states that the mass graves might contain the dead bodies of those who were killed or made to disappear since the armed rebellion started in 1990s.

In Indonesia, the National Commission of Human Rights of Indonesia (Komnas HAM) has recently issued an inquiry report on the anti-communist pogrom that took place in Indonesia in 1965 to 1967. The report concluded that there are enough initial pieces of evidence that gross violation of human rights including enforced disappearances were committed during that period. Earlier in 2006, Komnas HAM also issued an inquiry report on the cases of enforced disappearances that happened in 1997-1998 involving 23 activists of whom 13 are still disappeared until today. Of the said case, in 2009 the Parliament (DPR) recommended the President to establish an Ad Hoc Human Rights Court; to search for the 13 disappeared activists; to provide compensation and rehabilitation and ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances. We support our members KontraS and IKOHI to demand the government to follow up the reports of the Komnas HAM and recommendations of the Parliament.

In Nepal, despite the democracy transition through the signing of Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2006, the country is still in the state of political impasse resulting in non-accountability for conflict era human rights violations including enforced disappearances during Nepal’s civil war between 1996 and 2006. The Draft bills to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Disappearances Commission have been halted because the parliament was dissolved. The situation worsens because 3 days before today’s commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared, the Cabinet submitted an Ordinance on Truth and Reconciliation and Disappearances to be approved by the President. This Ordinance is considered by our member Advocacy Forum and Conflict Victims Society for Justice (CVSJ) and other human rights organizations in Nepal as an Impunity Document in both form and substance which, therefore, must be rejected.

In Pakistan, the Supreme Court found convincing evidence that the states-controlled paramilitary forces are responsible for the recent disappearances of at least 300 people who had been abducted, killed and their bodies abandoned across in Balochistan province, as well as the northwest and violence-ridden Karachi. The Pakistani government recently established a new commission to probe cases of enforced disappearances. However, human rights groups particularly the Baloch Human Rights Organization have been criticizing these inquiry commissions for failing to protect witnesses and for conducting inadequate investigations, especially in cases where security forces and intelligence agencies were involved.

The systematic and massive phenomenon of enforced disappearances in the country has prompted the Pakistani government to invite the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to officially visit the country in September.

In the Philippines, enforced disappearances continue to happen despite the promise of political change by the Aquino administration. Since assuming only two years in office, there are already 17 cases of enforced disappearance that occurred under its watch. While the 15th Philippine Congress has made a positive step with the approval of both houses on third and final reading their versions of anti-enforced disappearance bill, it still awaits the meeting of Joint Bicameral Committee and the signature of President for the bill to pass into law

In Sri Lanka, three years after the government of Sri Lanka declared an end to decades of civil conflict with the Tamil Elam, enforced disappearances remain a major human rights concern in the country. Twenty-one disappearances have been reported to the government-appointed Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka from the beginning of the year to April. According to the Commission, enforced disappearance has been a grave result of “massive security network “and “top class intelligence system.” Human rights groups particularly the Families of the Disappeared (FOD) are mounting pressure on the Rajapaksa government to act on the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission, one of which is the criminalization of enforced or involuntary disappearances under its penal code.

In Timor Leste, during the UN Universal Periodic Review in October 2011, Timor Leste agreed to consider calls from many states to implement recommendations made by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR). Impunity for human rights violations persists despite ongoing investigations conducted by the Serious crimes Investigation. Timorese NGOs, particularly the HAK Association continues to call for justice for human rights violations committed by Indonesian security forces between 1974 and 1999. It has approximately recorded 186,000 to 250,000 people who died and were made to disappear. This call was reiterated by the UN WGEID when its officials visited the country at the beginning of 2012. Nevertheless, the government continues to promote reconciliation with Indonesia at the expense of justice. The Government of Timor-Leste still has to follow up the recommendations of the Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) with Indonesia particularly on the establishment of the Commission for the Disappearances.

In Thailand, the Thai government expressed commitment to put an end to enforced disappearance in the country by signing early this year the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Recently, it approved some compensation package for families of the disappeared in the South, an act seen by the Justice and Peace Foundation as an important step for reparation. These positive developments, however, did not stop human rights groups particularly the Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF) from demanding for the investigation of recent disappearance cases particularly in deep south. JPF has documented 40 incidences of enforced disappearance involving 59 people. The JPF believes that the counter-insurgency approach in the southern province of Thailand is the reason for its continuing commission.

Due to this grim situation, the AFAD together with organizations of victims’ families and other human rights organizations in different continents has been tirelessly working to convince all states particularly Asian governments to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in order to achieve its universal application and to enact domestic laws for its full implementation. Corollary to this is the call of AFAD on all governments to recognize the competence of the UN Committee Against Enforced Disappearances.

We, members of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, are drawn by a common pain. But we are also moved by a shared aspiration to work in solidarity in the relentless quest to obtain truth and justice and to make enforced disappearance disappear.

On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, as an apt tribute to the disappeared in Asia and the rest of the world, we pay our most fitting tribute to them – to continue our campaign to search for the truth; to attain justice, reparation, redress and to work indefatigably to ensure non-repetition, thus eventually fulfilling our dream for a world without desaparecidos.

Signed by:
MUGIYANTO
Chairperson
MANDIRA
Treasurer
MARY AILEEN DIEZ-BACALSO
Secretary-General

Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
Rms. 310-311 Philippine Social Science Center Bldg.,
Commonwealth Ave., Diliman, 1103 Quezon City

Telefax: 00-632-4546759
Mobile: (63)917-792-4058
Website: http://www.afad-online.org

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