AFAD Statement on the Commemoration of the International Week of the Disappeared 2016
May 23-27, 2016 – Every year on this week, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, as an integral part of the global movement against enforced disappearances, commemorates the International Week of the Disappeared. First commemorated by the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared-Detainees (FEDEFAM) in the early 80s, the International Week of the Disappeared has been adopted by AFAD and has served as a venue to campaign against this abominable practice of enforced disappearance which has spread to at least, 88 countries, 34 of which are Asian countries.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on Enforced Disappearances by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 2006. Unfortunately, during these ten years, enforced disappearances continued to be perpetrated around the world, with Asia being the region with the highest number of reported cases and, still, the region with the least number of ratifications.
The Philippines continues to be the only country in Asia to have a domestic law criminalizing the commission of enforced disappearances. However, the full and effective implementation of the law remains an open challenge.
Enforced disappearance “is a timeless tragedy for relatives and communities abandoned to their plight, without any answer. It is a longing ordeal, with hope against all hope.” (Prof. Emmanuel Decaux, President of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances)
Around the world, family members of victims of this heinous crime continue to suffer from the consequences of the disappearance of their fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. They continue to live in a state of limbo, trapped between the hope to see them return safely and the pain deriving from the possibility of their death. The desaparecidos, whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown, continue to be deprived of life and liberty and violated of their civil political as well as economic, social and cultural rights.
The sufferings and tireless struggle of families of the disappeared for truth and justice have transformed many of them into courageous human rights defenders, standing up for their right to know the truth about the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. Amidst pain, their courage and determination in the pursuit for justice helped them face the terrible consequences brought about by the crime of enforced disappearance.
In South Asia, enforced disappearances have spread during the past few years. To give just few examples: in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kashmir the number of cases is constantly increasing, with human rights defenders being intimidated and even disappeared; in Sri Lanka last year the Working Group denounced the secret detention camps present in the country and the huge number of families in this small country continue to search for their disappeared loved ones and to cry for justice.
In South East Asia, particularly in Thailand, since the military coup of 2014, a practice of short term enforced disappearances has been carried out together with arbitrary arrests, incommunicado military detention and military trials for lese majeste. In other Southeast Asian countries, such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Timor-Leste, cases of the past remain unresolved.
AFAD and its member organizations will continue carry on the struggleagainst the almost complete impunity surrounding this crime, to keep raising awareness on the crime of enforced disappearance as well as campaigning for the signing and ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearances across Asia.
On this occasion, AFAD’s continuing struggle to attain its goal of realizing a world without desaparecidoswill be a fitting tribute to the disappeared and their families.On this week, AFAD’smessage to all victims is to remind them that they are not alone in the struggle, that they have not been forgotten and that truth and justice are and will always remain AFAD priorities.
AFAD also reiterates its call for States to express genuine commitment to truth, justice and guarantees of non-recurrence by ratifying the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and taking concrete steps in putting a stop to the sufferings of the relatives of the disappeared and preventing such pain from ever being inflicted again in the future.
KHURRAM PARVEZ MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO
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