Break Impunity: Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law Now!
We strongly urge President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to sign into law the Anti- Enforced Disappearance bill on Monday, December 10, 2012, as we commemorate the International Human Rights Day, to show his administration’s clear resolve to uphold human rights and end impunity.
There is no better day for the President to reaffirm his commitment to human rights and vow to end enforced disappearances than on this day as the world observes the 64th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first universal recognition of our fundamental rights and freedoms as human persons.
Enforced disappearance is considered as one of the cruelest forms of human rights violations. It violates practically all basic human rights of the disappeared including some of the civil, political and socio-economic rights of their families. The practice of enforced disappearance persists with impunity in the country even after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, and in recent years has elicited urgent concern and condemnation from international human rights advocates and entities including United Nations bodies. The Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) has documented more than 2,000 reported enforced disappearance victims since the Marcos regime, 18 of whom under the present political dispensation.
The proposed legal measure aims to put an end to this odious practice by instituting effective mechanisms for accountability and redress.
We are extremely pleased that after languishing in six Congresses, it is now awaiting the President’s signature. Should the President fail to act on it – which omission undermines his avowed commitment to human rights – it will automatically lapse into law after 30 days.
Under the proposed law, enforced or involuntary disappearance is defined as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which places such person outside the protection of the law.”
The creation under Administrative Order No. 35 of the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons will not suffice to effectively prevent, suppress and penalize enforced disappearance.
It is not enough for the Inter-Agency Committee to investigate acts of enforced disappearance and other human rights violations. It must be able to bring the perpetrators to justice and pursue the final resolution of each case filed in court.
The anti-enforced or involuntary disappearance law will be a vital tool of the Committee in prosecuting violators of the absolute right not to be disappeared. The special law will enable the Committee not only to investigate but also cause the filing of the appropriate complaint of enforced disappearance, once the crime’s constitutive elements (deprivation of liberty, involvement of the State, and concealment of information) have been established.
The Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law will help the Committee succeed in addressing enforced disappearances where the previous similar investigative bodies failed.
The proposed “Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012” does not only impose criminal sanctions but also guarantees the right of all persons not to be subjected to enforced disappearance and provides for reparation to surfaced victims and families. Its signing by the President on International Human Rights Day is one significant manifestation that his “matuwid na daan” is built on human rights protection and promotion even as he himself upholds human dignity, justice, and the rule of law.
The enactment into law of the proposed “Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012” will be the first in Asia – an exemplary act for Asian governments to follow which we hope will facilitate the Philippine government’s signing and ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Justice to All Victims of Human Rights Violations! Justice to All Desaparecidos!
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
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