[Statement] AFAD Commemorates the UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

AFAD Commemorates the UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances
30th August, 2021

Manila: Today, on the occasion of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) remembers the victims across the globe and extends solidarity to the families of the disappeared and countless human rights defenders fighting to put an end to impunity amid great challenges. According to the United Nations, enforced disappearance is more than “a human rights violation against an individual”. Enforced disappearances affect the entire family of the victim and is “used as a strategy to spread terror within the society”.

According to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, proclaimed by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/133 of 18 December 1992 as a body of principles for all States, an enforced disappearance occurs when:

“persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.”

AFAD along with its Member Organizations and individual members in Asia and beyond, has been advocating for the right to truth and justice for the families who are victims of this serious and continuing violation with a resounding call for guarantees of non-recurrence from the States and an end to impunity. In contrast, the number of cases of enforced disappearance continue to rise. And the alleged perpetrators remain at large and are not brought to justice. The judicial system in States across Asia is more or less compromised and the justice seeking process is long and tedious, most especially for cases of enforced disappearance. Impunity, both legal and moral, is pervasive.

In the region (Asia), the human rights situation has deteriorated over the past few decades and more so in recent years, especially with the coming of autocratic and repressive regimes into power. Be it Duterte in the Philippines, Sheikh Haseena in Bangladesh, Joko Widodo in Indonesia, or Modi in India, these rulers have shown utmost disregard for human rights. In Indonesia, President Joko Widodo failed on his commitment to settle the past cases of human rights violations, including those of enforced disappearances. In Nepal, the fate of most of those who disappeared during the 1996-2006 civil conflict remains unknown and human rights defenders (HRDs) are losing faith in the Transitional Justice Process. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, enforced disappearances continue to be reported regularly despite the fact that the current government has made promises to end the phenomenon by criminalizing it. In Sri Lanka, the Office of Missing Persons has not come up to the expectations of the people. In Indian administered Jammu & Kashmir, the State fails to even acknowledge all the disappearances.

The existing challenges of the families of the disappeared and of human rights defenders working to support the struggle of these families have increased manifold with the COVID-19 pandemic. The then limited civic space further narrowed as restrictions on the freedom of assembly and the related freedom of expression were strictly imposed in the garb of protective measures against the COVID-19 virus. Civil society actions have been choked as States increased pressure on human rights organizations and defenders. Activists are increasingly faced with harassment and threats of reprisal resulting in fear for life and safety.

With the growing surveillance, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, families and friends of the disappeared and those who stand witness to this heinous crime, the road to truth and justice appears to be more onerous. It is at this point that AFAD underscores its commitment and solidarity with all those who fight for truth and justice. Let us persevere in our struggle to put an end to impunity and the practice of enforced disappearance. Finally, we reiterate our call for the States to sign, ratify and adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

NO ONE SHOULD BE SUBJECTED TO ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE!!!

Signed by:
Khurram Parvez
Chairperson

Jose Marie “Joey” Faustino
Secretary-General

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