[Statement] End enforced disappearances, End social and economic injustice! -AFAD

End enforced disappearances,
End social and economic injustice!

10 December 2015 – On this 67th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) condemns all forms of State violence that are systematically committed against peoples all over the world. The global structure that perpetuates wealth and progress for the few comes at the price of the suffering of millions— of peoples displaced, dispossessed and made disposable. On this occasion, AFAD vows to work fully for the promotion and protection of human rights, with emphasis on the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearances.


Tens of thousands of mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, sisters, brothers and friends have been snatched away from their loved ones and from their lives since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID) reports of 42,889 active cases it has received from 84 states, a number that only foreshadows thousands of other cases that have not yet been reported. This global malady had urged the United Nations to adopt the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and to officially recognize August 30 as the International Day of the Disappeared.

Between the 70s to the early 90s in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, enforced disappearances have been the governments’ weapon of choice to silence those who challenge injustices. The Philippines’ Marcos and Indonesia’s Suharto dictatorial regimes, for instance, committed enforced disappearances as a means to eliminate those who threaten their political power and challenge the economic injustices at the time, including farmers, labor union leaders, church people, indigenous peoples and student activists.

The fall of those dictatorships has not put an end to the practice of enforced disappearances. The continuous waging of imperialist wars that only seek to maintain the global hegemonic order has resulted in the calloused commission of enforced disappearances for the same purpose as they have always served: to sow fear amongst the people and stifle resistance and dissent. The most recent attacks in Syria, which have killed and displaced many, manifest the same war that is being justified as the “War on Terror” has resulted in more than 5,000 cases of enforced disappearances in Pakistan. To date, the number of enforced disappearances in the Middle East and Africa that are linked to the War on Terror is difficult to approximate, but a report released by the Human Rights Watch[1] has provided a list of names of victims of enforced disappearances who, according to evidence, are being detained in Guantánamo

Asia bears the brunt of the phenomenon of enforced disappearances. As per 2015 report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, out of the total number of 42,889 active cases, 25,706 came from Asia. 30 Asian countries out of 94 countries world-wide have submitted about 60% of the total number of active cases totally submitted from different parts of the globe. A region with the highest number of outstanding cases submitted to the UN, Asia is bereft of strong regional human rights mechanisms for protection and has the least number of ratifications to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The Philippines is the only Asian country that has a law criminalizing enforced disappearances, but its full implementation remains a challenge.

In this context, AFAD believes that to put an end to enforced disappearances, the causes of social, political and economic injustice must be eradicated. The UN WGEID underscored the link between enforced disappearances and social and economic rights, and the importance of addressing the latter alongside the struggle against enforced disappearances, in a report [2]in July 2015. According to the study, the indivisibility of enforced disappearance and socio-economic rights can be seen in the vulnerability and the marking of the poor and marginalized—and those who fight for the social and economic rights—as targets in enforced disappearances.

In order to realize a world without desaparecidos, enforced disappearances must be fought against as a crime not only against the individual who has been disappeared, and to their families who suffer from the unceasing grief and anguish worsened by their forced state of destitution and oblivion on the fate or whereabouts of their disappeared loved one—moreover, it must be struggled against as a crime against the community and the greater society. The States’ use of enforced disappearances requires that all people—from the families of the disappeared; to social justice activists and human rights defenders; to farmers, workers, women, LGBTQ; from Asia to Europe, to the Americas and Africa—unite in calling on putting an end to this grave and inhuman violation and to the social and economic conditions to which it is inextricably linked.

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) renews its call for the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances that would make States accountable to helping families of the disappeared find truth and justice, as well as protect their people from being subjected to this heinous crime. Moreover, it calls on all states to recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances and enact and implement domestic laws that criminalize enforced disappearance. AFAD likewise calls on States to fully honor their commitments to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

67 long years have passed since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris. Notwithstanding progress in human rights, the world has yet to see the full respect of the universality, indivisibility and inter-dependence of human rights. The right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance still remains an empty dream.

[1] HRW’s “Off the Record” was released in 2007. See the report at https://www.hrw.org/report/2007/06/07/record/us-responsibility-enforced-disappearances-war-terror

[2] The “Study on enforced or involuntary disappearances and economic, social and cultural rights” was an addendum to the WGEID’s report during the Human Rights Council’s 30th Session. See the full text of the study here: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G15/152/87/PDF/G1515287.pdf?OpenElement

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