Tag Archives: Protection of All Persons

[Statement] Paggunita sa kagitingan at sakripisyo ng mga biktima ng sapilitang pagwala -FIND

Paggunita sa kagitingan at sakripisyo ng mga biktima ng sapilitang pagwala

Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance

Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance

Ngayong ika-1 at ika-2 ng Nobyembre muli na namang gugunitain ng buong bansa ang mga yumao nating mahal sa buhay. Mapupuno na naman ang lahat ng sementeryo upang muling pagnilayan ang mga makabuluhang alaala at pamana ng mga yumao. Kasabay ng pagpupugay ay ang panalangin na sana ay nasa matahimik na silang kalagayan.

FIND

Kakaiba ang undas sa mga pamilya ng biktima ng sapilitang pagwala. Ang mga pamilya ng mga desaparecido ay walang puntod na dadalawin, dahil hanggang sa ngayon ay di pa rin alam ang kinasapitan at kinalalagyan ng mga iwinalang mahal sa buhay. Ang kalagayang ito ang nagbubunsod na magtipon tuwing ika-2 ng Nobyembre ang mga kaanak, kaibigan, mga biktimang lumitaw na buhay at iba’t-ibang organisasyon ng karapatang pantao sa Bantayog ng mga Desaparecido (Flame of Courage Monument). Ito ang nagsisilbing bantayog na nagpapaalaala sa kagitingan, sakripisyo at talinong inialay sa bayan ng mga biktima ng sapilitang pagwala.

Photo by FIND 2Ang kanilang isinakripisyong buhay ang naging inspirasyon sa pagsasabatas ng Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Law (R.A. 10353), ang batas na ginawang krimen ang sapilitang pagwala. Ang tagumpay na ito ng ating pakikipaglaban para sa katarungan ng lahat ng mga biktima ng sapilitang pagwala ay isang hakbang tungo sa lipunang may hustisya at paggalang sa karapatang pantao .

Sa araw na ito, muli na namang magsasama-sama ang mga kapamilya, kapuso at kapatid ng mga desaparecido sa Bantayog sa bakuran ng Redemptorist Church sa Baclaran upang sariwain at ipagdiwang ang kanilang buhay at alalahanin ang mga gintong aral na iniwan nila sa atin.

Gamitin nating sandata ang R.A. 10353 na ating napagtagumpayan upang mapanagot ang mga indibidwal na gumawa ng sapilitang pagwala at ang Estado na nagpikit-mata sa harap ng krimeng ito. Tiyakin natin na ganap na maipatupad ang batas na ito, hindi lamang upang maparusahan ang mga may sala, ngunit upang matiyak na wala nang ibang magiging biktima ng sapilitang pagwala at mabigyan ng karampatang reparasyon ang mga biktima at kanilang pamilya. Pilitin din natin ang Aquino administration na kagyat na pirmahan ng Pilipinas at ratipikahan ng Senado ang International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

NOV. 2, 2013 – ALL SOULS’ DAY
PRESS STATEMENT
ALL SOULS’ DAY 2013

[Events] Activities in commemoration of the INTERNATIONAL WEEK OF THE DISAPPEARED- AFAD/FIND

INTERNATIONAL WEEK OF THE DISAPPEARED
May 27 -31, 2013

FIND AFAD
Dear Friends:

The Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), the International Coalitions Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD are organizing two activities in commemoration of the INTERNATIONAL WEEK OF THE DISAPPEARED (May 27 -31, 2013).

The May 28 Roundtable Discussion on Restitution for the Victims of Enforced Disappearance which will be held at the Minority Hall of the Philippine Congress from 2 to 5 pm, aims to bring together various stakeholders to come up with a common understanding of the concept of restitution and to identify its different forms and the necessary operational mechanisms for its provisions.

The May 30 Roundtable Discussion (RTD) on the Lobby Efforts for the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which will be held at the Blue Room of the Ateneo Professional Schools, Rockwell, Makati City from 9:00 to 11:30 am, aims to discuss the complementation of the lobby work of human rights NGOs and the diplomatic community for possible accession to ICPAPED by the Philippine government.

WE SHALL TRULY APPRECIATE IT IF YOU CAN TAKE PART IN THIS AFOREMENTIONED EVENTs.
THANK YOU.

For inquiry, please contact:

Mr. Darwin Mendiola
Mobile No. 0917.8968459
Office Phone No. 490.7862

Email address: afad@surfshop.net.ph

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No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance

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No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance.

The arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the 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 place such a person outside the protection of the law.

Know the convention…http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CED/Pages/ConventionCED.aspx

Justice for All Desaparecidos of the World!

Sign and Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance NOW!

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[Statement] AFAD Condemns Arrest of Family Members of Disappeared and FOD Members at the Conclusion of its Council Meeting

AFAD Condemns Arrest of Family Members of Disappeared and FOD Members at the Conclusion of its Council Meeting

AFAD3 December 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka – The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) concluded its week-long Council Meeting in Sri Lanka with a solidarity night together with local civil society organizations and family members of the disappeared. The night of sharing, video presentation, music and dancing ended with the arrest of six persons, including two elderly women family members of the disappeared, Ane Teresa Fernando and Ariyawathi de Silva; the Secretary of the Families of the Disappeared (FOD), Wasantha Ranile Kumara; Executive Director of the Right to Life, Mr. Philip Dissanayake; a vehicle driver and a friend. Their laptops, mobile phones and the key to the vehicle of Mr. Dissanayake, with plate number 59-9700 were taken into police custody. The victims were put into a police jeep by uniformed policemen, including the Headquarters Chief Inspector in Negombo, and another policeman who introduced himself as Assistant Superintendent of Police, but was plain clothed. Witnesses took the following official police numbers: 89218; 79573; 89568; 10701; 51717.

In a heated confrontation between the policemen and FOD leaders headed by FOD President, Mr. Brito Fernando, the FOD learned that the motive of the arrest was the presentation of a video on the recent commemoration of the anniversary of the Monument of the Disappeared in Seeduwa, Sri Lanka held on October 27, 2012. Mr. Fernando asked if he was being arrested and what the charges were, which one of the policemen, who introduced himself as Sub Inspector, said that the charge was the act of showing a video documentary against President Mahindra Rajapaksa. Mr. Fernando told the police that he took responsibility of the video and challenged the policemen to arrest him. The policemen responded that they only needed a copy of the film, which Mr. Fernando refused to give.

Mr. Fernando and other leaders confronted the police and asserted that the arrest of the six persons was illegal. For which reason, the policemen were forced to release the victims after holding them in their vehicle for more than an hour.

The AFAD Council condemns in strongest terms the act which reconfirms that Sri Lanka is indeed a human rights violator which deserves no support whatsoever from any UN Member. Furthermore, the AFAD Council expresses its profound disappointment at the sorry state of human rights in this country. The undersigned personally met Pres. Rajapaksa a few years back, when he was the Prime Minister of the country. He promised to facilitate the speedy signing and ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which never happened and on the contrary, thousands of people have been violated of their rights, including the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance. The continuing massive commission of enforced disappearances and many other human rights violations in the country are a cause for alarm that necessitates a strong response from the international community.

Art. 24.7 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, “Each State Party shall guarantee the right to form and participate freely in organizations and associations concerned with attempting to establish the circumstances of enforced disappearance and the fate of disappeared persons, and to assist victims of enforced disappearance.” The recent incident is a blatant disregard of the provision of this anti-disappearance treaty.

The Council Meeting of AFAD held on 28 November – 3 December 2012 was attended by human rights organizations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and a delegation of AFAD Secretariat members from the Philippines with an online participation from its member –organization in Kashmir, India. It was also attended by an observer from Thailand-based organization, ND Burma and a consultant of the Bread for the World/Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst (EED).

Signed by:
MUGIYANTO
Chairperson

and

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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[Statement] Tuwid nga ba kung walang paninindigan sa karapatang pantao? -FIND

Tuwid nga ba kung walang paninindigan sa karapatang pantao?

Nang hindi nabanggit ang usaping karapatang pantao at hindi naging bahagi ng tema sa SONA (State of the Nation Address) ni Pangulong Noynoy Aquino noong Hulyo 25, 2011, nabahala ang mga organisasyong tagapagtaguyod ng karapatang pantao. Higit sa lahat, labis itong ikinabahala ng mga pamilya at kaanak ng biktima ng enforced disappearance o sapilitang pagwala. Walang linaw at katiyakan ang usaping karapatang pantao sa ilalim ng pamunuang Aquino. Lalong walang linaw kung makakamit nga ba ang hustisya para sa mga biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao.

Nitong nakaraang panahon minabuti ng Senado at Kamara na ipasa ang panukalang batas laban sa enforced disappearance. Kinakailangan na ngayon ihapag sa isang Bicameral Conference Committee upang tuluyang maging isang batas. Magsisilbing mabigat na tulak sana kung manggaling sa Pangulo ang pagsasakatuparan nito.

Subalit ang kakulangan ng paninindigan mula sa Pangulo hinggil sa usaping pangangalaga, pagtataguyod, pagpapatupad at pagtatanggol ng mga karapatan ng mamamayan ay nagpapahiwatig ng baluktot na sinyales sa mga ahensiya ng gobyerno. Patunay dito ay ang panlalamig ng Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) na pangunahan at itulak ang pagpirma at pagsang-ayon sa International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Itong kawalan ng human rights agenda na magsisilbi sanang gabay ng pamahalaan ay mas lalong nagpapalakas ng loob ng mga masasamang elemento sa gobyerno at ng mga taong kasabwat nila upang tahasang labagin ang karapatang pantao ng kanyang mamamayan.

Katunayan, patuloy na tumataas ang bilang ng mga dinukot at pilit iwinala sa ilalim ng pamunuang Aquino. Ayon sa tala ng FIND ay umaabot na sa 17 ka-tao ang iniulat na iwinala, 7 sa mga ito ay hindi pa rin natatagpuan hanggang sa ngayon. Katulad na lamang ng tatlong iskolar ng Islam; sina Najir Ahung, 38, Rasdie Kasaran, 21 and Yusup Mohammad, 19 pawang mga taga Al-Barka, Basilan na dinukot ng mga pinaghinalaang ahente ng gobyerno sa loob mismo ng Terminal 3 ng Ninoy Aquino International Airport noong Enero 3, 2012; Si Daryl Fortuna at Jinky Garcia kapwa estudyante, huling nakita noong Marso 9, 2010 na nananaliksik tungkol sa pinsala dulot ng malawakang pagmimina sa Masinloc, Zambales. Patuloy pa ring naghahanap ang kanilang mga magulang hanggang sa kasalukuyan.

Malinaw na may naiambag na ang kasalukuyang rehimen sa kabuohang bilang na 2,201 na mga biktima ng enforced disappearance simula pa sa panahon ng diktaduryang Ferdinand Marcos. Tiyak, hindi ito ang tipong pamana na nais iwanan ng administrasyong PNoy at kanyang tuwid na daan.

Mananatiling hungkag ang “landas ng katapatan at integridad sa pamamahala” ng Administrsyong Aquino hangga’t walang malinaw na paninindigan hinggil sa karapatang pantao, lalo na sa usaping enforced disappearance na kasalukuyang nakasalang sa Kongreso. Kung tunay nga na nagtatrabaho ang gobyernong ito para sa mamayang Pilipino, ay nararapat na bigyan ng atensyon at prayoridad ang mga sumusunod:

Ang pagharap at pakikipagtalakayan sa mga lider ng mga Human Rights Organizations upang mas lalong makatulong at makapagpapabilis ng pag-intindi ng Pangulo sa usaping enforced or involuntary disappearance;
Hikayating ang kaagarang pagpulong ng Bicameral Conference Committee upang pag-isahin at maisumite para lagdaan ang Anti-enforced Disappearance Law of 2011;
Simulan na ang proseso ng pagratipika at pagsangayon ng Estado sa International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPAPED) sa pangunguna ng DFA.

Ito ay ilan lamang sa mga kongkretong paraan upang patotohanan ni Pangulong Noynoy Aquino na ang sambayanang Pilipino nga ang kanyang tinatawag na Boss.

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[Statement] JOINT STATEMENT ON THE INTERNATIONAL WEEK OF THE DISAPPEARED 2012 -FIND & AFAD

JOINT STATEMENT ON THE INTERNATIONAL WEEK OF THE DISAPPEARED 2012
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD)
28 May 2012

As the world observes the International Week of the Disappeared on 28 May – 02 June 2012, the Philippines undergoes the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland tomorrow, 29 May 2012.

One of the standing Council recommendations to the Philippines is to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The Philippines neither “accepted” nor “refused” the said recommendation but declared “to consider” it.

It is hoped that the Philippines during the UPR will once and for all decide and sincerely commit to sign and accede to the Convention soonest.

The commission of enforced disappearances may have actually decelerated under the Aquino watch. Considering, however, that enforced disappearances are continuing offenses so long as the fate and whereabouts of the victims are not established with certainty, the number of enforced disappearances remains high with over 2,000 continuing and unresolved offenses from the Marcos regime to the current administration.

The Aquino dispensation is therefore equally responsible to investigate, prosecute and penalize the perpetrators of enforced disappearances as his predecessors during whose terms the deprivation of liberty began but continues to the present. The State is accountable for all unresolved disappearances whoever is in power and whenever the abduction, arrest or detention was made.

In 2007 as one of the Philippines’ pledges to the United Nations Human Rights Council, it committed to support the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The families of desaparecidos in the country were then hopeful that the Philippines would be one of the early signatories and States Parties to the Convention. To date, the Convention has 91 signatories and 32 States Parties but the Philippines is neither a signatory nor, much less, a State Party.

The Convention is a landmark international human rights instrument that enshrines the non-derogable right against enforced disappearance, the right to know the truth, the right of victims and their families to reparation and rehabilitation, among others, and the duties of States Parties to protect these rights, investigate and bring to justice the violators, and prevent further commission of enforced disappearance.

On October 6, 2010, three days before the completion of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s first 100 days in office, representatives of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and two families of the disappeared met with the President in Malacanang to urge him to endorse the Philippines’ signing of the Convention and the immediate enactment of an anti-enforced disappearance law, and to address the unresolved cases of enforced disappearances in the country. President Aquino promised to “study” the group’s concerns.

One year and seven months hence, with separate follow-up meetings with the Assistant Secretaries in the Office of the President and the Department of Foreign Affairs in July last year and February this year respectively, more particularly on the signing of the Convention as the passage of the bill in Congress has been on track, the Aquino government has remained outside the circle of signatories and States Parties to the Convention.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have already approved the bill on third reading. Government looks to the law, whose passage is imminent, to lay the groundwork for the country’s accession to the Convention.

Apparently, the executive has taken the reverse path of waiting for Congress to enact a law first before the Philippines’ binding itself to the Convention. It should be pointed out, however, that it is Article 3 of the Convention that mandates States Parties “to ensure that enforced disappearance constitutes an offense under its criminal law.” In other words it is the country’s accession to the Convention that should have facilitated the enactment of a domestic law on enforced disappearance.

If accession to the Convention is the Philippines’ goal as pronounced by government, why has it not yet even signed the treaty?

If enhancement of “domestic legal and institutional capacities” to deal with the issue of enforced disappearance is “the current priority” of government, the more reason the country should sign the Convention with dispatch because the law on enforced disappearance will soon be a reality and trainings to enhance the capacities of implementers should have started long ago. After all, the Convention does not create any new implementing institutions. They are all existing. Appropriate government agencies dealing with deprivation of liberty, investigation, prosecution and administration of justice, reparation including psychosocial rehabilitation, universal jurisdiction and extradition are all in place and have long been operating.

With respect to the latter two legal concerns (universal jurisdiction and extradition under Articles 9 and 13, respectively, of the Convention), it should be noted that these two Articles are a virtual reproduction of Articles 5 and 8, respectively, of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to which the Philippines has been a State Party since June 18, 1986. Moreover, Article 9 of the enforced disappearance Convention has its equivalent in Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on Sale of Children, Child Prosecution and Child Pornography which the Philippines ratified on May 28, 2002.

If these similar provisions did not impede the signing and ratification of the said previously ratified instruments, they should neither hinder the signing and ratification of the enforced disappearance Convention.

Hope may spring eternal from the human heart, but we hope for the signing and accession to the Convention and the enactment of an anti-enforced disappearance law now even as we reiterate our strong support to the repeated requests of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances for the Philippines to invite the Working Group to visit the country.

MARY AILEEN DIEZ BACALSO                NILDA LAGMAN SEVILLA
Secretary General of AFAD                          Co-Chairperson FIND
and Focal Person of ICAED

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[From the web] Issues and Trends on Enforced Disappearances And Women and Disadvantages and Obstacles Women Face In the Exercise of their Human Rights By Mary Aileen D. Bacalso

Issues and Trends on Enforced Disappearances And Women and Disadvantages and Obstacles Women Face In the Exercise of their Human Rights
By Mary Aileen D. Bacalso
Secretary-General, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
and Focal Person, International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED)
Delivered at the Experts’ Conference on Gender and Enforced Disappearances, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia April 18, 2012
Source: Icaed Int’l

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances and the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances, I thank you very much for this opportunity to be part of this conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Enforced disappearances occur in countries both with undemocratic regimes and even in countries that claim to be democratic. Occurring in the context of poverty and social injustice, enforced disappearances are victimizing not only those who disappeared, but equally their surviving mothers, wives, daughters who bear the brunt of the consequences of the crime.

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID), in its 2011 Report, speaks of 53,771 cases from 87 countries. These are not mere statistics, but the figures represent untold sufferings, especially of women. The global magnitude of the crime urged the United Nations to adopt without a vote the 1992 UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Further, to fill in the gaps in the then existing UN systems, the UN adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in December 2006, at present signed by 91 States and ratified by 32.

In the course of working for families of the disappeared in my own country, in neighboring Asian countries and in other parts of the world, I have had the opportunity to integrate with the families of the disappeared who continue to suffer from the never-ending victimization, aptly articulated in many ways in the WGEID’s General Comment.

A 16-year old lady in sari and veil was one of the 77 individual family members of the disappeared whom I met in the office of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in the disputed state of Kashmir in 2003. This lady told of the nightmare of her twin sister’s life when her sister was harassed by the perpetrator of her father’s disappearance. This perpetrator confessed having disappeared this lady’s father. He offered to her sister that he would surface her father alive if she would sleep with him. For many months, her sister literally lost her speech due to fear. Efforts of her organization to help her return to her normal self eventually helped her regain her speech and be reintegrated with her family.

In Indonesia, I first met Ibu (or Madam) N when her organization, the Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared (IKOHI) was launched in 2003. She does not speak my language and I do not speak hers, but her actions speak a thousand words of solidarity amidst the pain of losing her son who was among the 13 student activists who disappeared at the height of the anti-dictatorship campaign in Indonesia in the late ‘90s. That first meeting was followed by several occasions in Indonesia where she joined our meetings with national authorities. Little did I know that in between these encounters, she had repeatedly succumbed to a psychiatric illness. Once, she was seen shouting in front of a government building to demand the release of her son. When our former Chairperson, Munir was treacherously poisoned by arsenic by alleged members of the Indonesian military intelligence in a Garuda flightfrom Jakarta to Amsterdam on 7 Sept. 2004, her world was shattered. She was wailing in public events mourning for the loss of her biological son and for the loss of Munir whom she embraced as her own son.

In my own country, during the supposedly democratic administration of the late President Corazon Aquino, Mother F. lost her two sons – one was extrajudicially killed while the other involuntarily disappeared. These major losses in her life never dampened her spirit. She joined the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND). As years went by, this courageous lady grew physically older and weaker. Only last year did I hear that during her twilight years, she was wandering around searching for food, seeking support from her family members who were not in the position to help. Having died both sick and hungry, she was beyond recognition inside her coffin. Physically, she was skin and bonesof a woman who struggled for life till the very end. Like many parents of the disappeared, she wanted to close her eyes seeing the dawn of truth and justice – a dream she never came to realize.

A research paper produced by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons in Kashmir, entitled: “ Half Widow, Half Wife,” states that: “the absence of husbands renders women economically vulnerable.” Further, it states that the half widow is not equipped educationally or socially to begin earning for her family. “ During the day, I would beg. In the evening, I wash neighbors’ dishes. That is how I filled the rent. I would not tell anyone, not even the landlord about my husband. I would say he is on duty.”

“ Every now and then, someone comes to hear our story. But I have been raising these girls without a father. I don’t need to be reminded of that. I need jobs. Can someone provide my daughters jobs? We are not asking for handouts. My daughters will work. As a single mother, I had educated them.” Thus, states a half widow.

“ People have good reasons to question the safety and chastity of a woman alone. A few months ago, our neighbourhood was cordoned off for almost a week. Soldiers insisted on checking women’s breasts for grenades. Who knows what they did in homes without men?” “ (Half Widow, Half Wife)

In some contexts, daughters whose mothers remarried are also vulnerable to sexual abuses by their stepfathers. Worse still, their mothers take sides with their second husbands, leaving their daughters devastated even more.
There are some who take up the challenge of going beyond victimization and transforming themselves from victims to human rights defenders. But as defenders, they are frowned upon by society and branded as subversives and are themselves vulnerable to further violations.

There are also women who were pregnant when their husbands disappeared. Some had a miscarriage, others attempted to have or really had their babies aborted. Those who delivered their children were confronted with the insecurity of being unable to take care of another child whose father disappeared.

In Latin America, pregnant women were themselves disappeared and their children were born in captivity, sold for adoption and deprived of historical identity. As fruits of the persistent struggle to find these children and coupled with developments in science, a number of them were identified and reunited with their mothers’ biological families. Yet there are still many others who remain disappeared.

In more difficult circumstances, others were impregnated by their perpetrators, a situation so cruel and so complicated for victims to face.

In search for disappeared persons, victims may be found alive, albeit rarely. In many cases, they are never found. Others are found dead. Amidst all these processes of search, a global effort on this is the process of setting the Minimum Standards for Psychosocial Work in Exhumation Processes, Forced Disappearance, Justice and Truth.

Majority of the family members of victims of enforced disappearances are women who bear the brunt of the consequences especially because of women’s position in society. Living in a state of perpetual limbo, their status is ambivalent. Are they married? single? separated? For the absence of legal recognition of the status of women survivors of enforced disappearance, they receive no legal relief needed to pick up the broken pieces of their lives. In a society where men are expected to be the breadwinners, these women are generally ill-prepared for the consequences – they are forced to do odd jobs, take care of their children without social benefits, live a hand-to-mouth existence.

Stigmatized by society, they are accused of attracting men. Remarriage is a difficult option. Worse still, they are considered as burdens by their parents-in-law who themselves are economically hard up and therefore, incapable of responding to their economic needs. Returned to their biological parents to be taken care of is not an option. When life becomes so unbearable, some of them succumb to mental problems.

In general, women lack the understanding of the political context why their loved ones disappeared. This reality further impedes the process of healing and moving on, because the enforced disappearance brought with it some personal guilt among the surviving family members stemming from some family conflicts that may have occurred prior to the disappearance or guilt borne out of helplessness and inability to rescue their loved ones from the perpetrators.

Enforced disappearance causes disintegration of the family with the family members having to face security problems, economic pressure, deteriorating health, etc.

Civil society organizations are hampered by legal impediments and resources constraints. Government support is almost totally absent. Victims are bereft of the full support they very well deserve. Making the family whole again by healing wounds and mending scars, transforming victims to healers and promoting a cycle of healing are a major challenges.

At no better time than now that the UN WGEID has more profoundly looked into the issue vis-a-vis women who bear the brunt of the horrible consequences of the crime. A significant development in the struggle against enforced disappearances is the drafting of the General Comment on Gender Equality and Enforced Disappearances or General Comment on Women Victims and Applying a Gender Perspective on Enforced Disappearance.

Distinguished members of the UN WGEID, other organizers of this conference, friends, ladies and gentlemen, this gathering is indeed a giant step in the whole process of transforming women family members of the disappeared from pathetic victims into empowered catalysts for the eradication of enforced disappearances from the face of the earth.

Thank you very much.

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[From the web] “My name is not XX”: searching for the truth by naming the disappeared -OHCHR

“My name is not XX”: searching for the truth by naming the disappeared

Source: ww.ohchr.org

Thousands of unidentified bodies, labelled XX, have been buried in common graves at La Verbena cemetery, in Guatemala City, for many decades. Many of them are believed to be the victims of enforced disappearances during the country’s 36-year-long civil war (1960-1996). More than 200,000 people – most of them civilians – were killed or disappeared during the conflict.

The “My Name Is Not XX” campaign, launched by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation in 2010, aims at exhuming and identifying the remains of the victims buried at La Verbena by matching their DNA with DNA samples provided by the victims’ family members. The main goal of the project is to bring dignity to the victims and a sense of closure to their families by ensuring that the thousands buried as “XX” finally have a name.

The Foundation is a non-governmental organization that contributes to the strengthening of the justice system and to the respect for human rights through the investigation, documentation, dissemination, education and awareness-raising of historic violations of the right to life and cases of non-clarified deaths.

The work of the Foundation “demonstrates that the relentless efforts of victims’ families to finally know the truth about the fate of their loved ones have not been in vain,” said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay during a recent visit to La Verbena cemetery.

She said that the perpetrators of these gross human rights violations “may have tried to silence the victims who are buried here, but they were unable to silence their families.” “Each exhumed and identified body helps to heal the wounds that many tried to close without allowing the truth to be known,” she said.

The right to the truth, which is the focus of the International Day observed by the United Nations on 24 March, was first recognized in cases of missing and disappeared persons. Its importance in that context has not abated, but the right has evolved and its application has been extended to other gross violations of human rights such as extrajudicial executions, torture and ill treatment, including sexual violence.

It provides for victims and their families the right to know the truth about the circumstances in which violations of human rights occurred, including who participated in them. In cases of enforced disappearance and missing persons, it also implies the right to know the fate and whereabouts of the victim.

Tools for ensuring the right to the truth include truth-seeking mechanisms, such as truth commissions, commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions, as well as international, regional and national courts, and national human rights institutions.

At La Verbena cemetery, Pillay said that the work carried out by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation is not only promoting the right to the truth, but it is also providing “valuable support to the justice system in its efforts to put an end to impunity for serious human rights violations.”

“The results of the exhumations and identifications being carried out here,” she said “are helping the country to move towards reconciliation.” “A reconciliation which can only be achieved through a comprehensive and transparent process of justice, truth, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.”

The UN Human Rights Office in Guatemala works closely with the Forensic Anthropology Foundation, the victims’ families and other civil society organizations by providing technical support and advisory services.

The Office, established in 2005, monitors the human rights situation in the country and provides technical assistance to state institutions and civil society on the implementation of international human rights obligations. The Office aims to empower civil society, including vulnerable groups, to understand and claim their rights and to support Government institutions in developing legislation and policies that, among others, provide redress for victims of human rights abuses.

The International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims was established by the UN General Assembly in 2010 and is observed annually on 24 March.

The right to the truth is recognized in several international and regional treaties and instruments, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, national laws, national, regional and international jurisprudence, and numerous resolutions and statements of intergovernmental bodies at both the international level and the regional level.

23 March 2012

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/MynameisnotXXSearchingforthetruthdisappeared.aspx

[Event] “KNOW ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE,” a mini film expo

Dear Friends,

Greetings of peace!

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) in cooperation with the Committee on Human Rights of the House of Representatives cordially invite you to “KNOW ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE,” a mini film expo on the global phenomenon of enforced or involuntary disappearance. The second film showing will be held on 22 March 2012 at 1:00 -5:00 PM, Rooms 9 and 10, RVM Bldg. in the House of Representatives.

Slated for screening are: “Dukot”, a movie of Joel Lamangan and Boni Ilagan which was nearly banned by Movies and Televisions Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) in 2008 for depicting the grim reality of the plight of the disappeared persons in the Philippines in recent years, and “Finding Ernesto,” a documentary film on the search for children who disappeared during the civil war in El Salvador. The driving force behind this quest is the late Father Jon de Cortina, a Jesuit priest from Spain who came to El Salvador in 1955. When he discovered after the war that there were many disappeared children in the area around his village, he formed the group Pro-Busqueda (Association in Search of Missing Children) to trace the children and reconnect them to their families.

The film expo aims to promote human rights awareness more particularly of the right against enforced disappearance and to urge the Philippine government to enact an anti-enforced disappearance law and to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

We also take this opportunity to commemorate the martyrdom of El Salvador’s Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero which prompted the UN General Assiembly to adopt a resolution on 21 December 2010 declairinging March 24 as the Interantional Day of the Right to Truth regarding gross human rights violations and dignity of vicitms.

We shall truly appreciate it if you would join us in this activity and share with us your views through an open discussion following each film showing.

We look forward to your invaluable presence and active participation in this collective endeavor. We know that you are one with us in making human rights a reality for all.

Thank you and warmest regards.

Sincerely yours,

MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO                                     NILDA L. SEVILLA
Secretary General                                                            Co-Chairperson
AFAD                                                                                  FIND

[Regional/Solidarity] Enforced Disappearance in Thailand must end Now! -AFAD

AFAD Statement on
8th Anniversary of Somchai Neelaphaijit’s Disappearance
12 March 2012

Enforced Disappearance in Thailand must end Now!

Eight years have passed but truth and justice for the disappeared prominent Thai human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelaphaijit still remain very elusive. Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit was forcibly disappeared on 12 March 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand. At the time of his disappearance, Mr. Somchai was working on torture cases committed by Thai security officers in the southern province of Thailand, which was then placed under martial law.

Despite efforts of Atty. Neelaphaijit’s family to bring his case at the national and international attention and to put those responsible to the bar of justice, only one of the five police officers who were arrested and prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the disappearance was convicted to a three-year imprisonment in January 2006. What added insult to injury was the verdict of Appeal Court on 11 March 2011, which suddenly reversed the decision of the Court of First Instance for lack of sufficient evidence and ruled that the wife and children of Somchai Neelaphaijit are not eligible to exercise their rights as the aggrieved party. This decision is nothing but a denial of his family’s right to uncover the truth and to seek justice.

Although the Appeal Court’s ruling is now under review of the Supreme Court and the Department of Special Investigation have continued the investigation to gather more evidence to make it a murder case, it is evident that the Thai justice system remains ineffective in securing accountability and ending impunity. The difficulties of gathering evidence and procedural mechanisms indicate the need for a domestic legislation defining and penalizing the crime of enforced disappearance and providing reparations and rehabilitation to victims and their families.

Enforced or involuntary disappearance remains one of the major human rights concerns in Thailand and in many Asian countries today. Based on the 2011 report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the first thematic UN body created in 1982 to monitor the incidences of enforced disappearances worldwide, it is happening in 83 countries. Many of these cases occur in almost 30 countries of Asia, a continent that has the highest number of cases submitted to the UNWGEID. Worse still, Asia lacks a strong regional mechanism for redress and is bereft of domestic laws penalizing disappearance as a separate and autonomous criminal offense.

The Justice for Peace Foundation (JOF) of Thailand has documented over 90 cases of enforced disappearance that took place between 1991 and 2010. The actual number of cases, though, may even be more as many disappearance cases are still underreported and undocumented. This shows that enforced or disappearances are not only difficult to investigate and prosecute. They persist to recur especially because perpetrators of this horrendous offense can easily escape from the criminal accountability.

In case of enforced disappearance, not only the direct victims suffer but their families, too. Their suffering is compounded by the fear and uncertainty created by the lack of resolution of these cases and the constant harassment and threats to their lives.

Today, as we join the family, friends and colleagues of Atty. Somchai Neelaphaijit in remembering his life and works in defending the rights of others, we also take this opportunity to call on the Thai government to immediately ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  While the Thai government has already took a positive step in addressing this abominable practice by signing of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 9 January 2012, it still needs to ratify this new treaty and to pass domestic laws that will concretely implement its provisions. Corollary to this is the imperative for the Thai government to recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances.

Doing so will not only exact the injustice committed against Somchai’s and his family but for the whole Thai nation to finally find peace and stability through respect of human rights.

Justice for Atty. Somchair Neelaphaijit!  Justice for all desaparecidos in Thailand and the rest of the world!

Signed by:

MUGIYANTO
Chairperson

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

 

[Statement] On the first anniversary of the anti-disappearance treaty, ICAED expresses its concerns over the lack of new ratifications

On the first anniversary of the anti-disappearance treaty,
ICAED expresses its concerns
over the lack of new ratifications

  23 December 2011 – The International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) commemorates today the first anniversary of the entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (the Convention).  The new Committee on Enforced Disappearances (the Committee) held its first session in November 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland. The ICAED members who participated in  a meeting between NGOs and the new Committee has expressed its willingness to cooperate with civil society.

The ICAED is deeply concerned about the continuing rise of enforced disappearances cases in many parts of the world as its member-organizations reported during its November 2011 international conference in Geneva. Families and relatives of the disappeared continue to suffer devastating effects of the enforced disappearance. Ironically, only ten more states have ratified the Convention since its entry into force in December 2010. Furthermore, of the 30 States Parties, only 12 have recognized the competence of the Committee to receive and examine both individual and inter-State communications.

The ICAED reiterates its call on all States to ratify and fully implement the Convention and to recognize the competence of the CED pursuant to Articles 31 and 32 of the Convention systematically included among the criteria applied by the Universal Periodic Review.  Moreover, the ICAED calls on all States to adopt domestic legislation to criminalize enforced disappearance and ensure the prevention and punishment of this crime.

The ICAED recalls that the families of victims of disappeared from Latin America were the first advocates for a convention against enforced disappearance, during FEDEFAM’s Congress in San Jose, Costa Rica in 1991.  As the year 2011 draws to a close, taking root from past achievements, the ICAED decides to step up its efforts to intensify its campaign to disseminate the core values of the Convention to fight against the abominable crime of enforced disappearance. It continues to cooperate with the 30-year old UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, whose mandate, established by 1992 UN Declaration for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is essential, especially for all States that did not ratify the Convention. It also equally commits to work with the new Committee on Enforced Disappearances whose mandate is to ensure the treaty’s implementation in governments that have ratified it.

[Statement] Impunity for Enforced Disappearance Must End NOW! – AFAD

Today (December 10), as the world commemorates the 63rd International Human Rights Day, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances or (AFAD) calls on all governments particularly those in the Asian region to stop enforced disappearance and to end impunity.

Enforced disappearance is considered one of the cruelest human rights transgression. It is a multiple and continuous violation of the basic human rights not only of the direct victims but also of their families and the greater society. It inflicts untold sufferings to the victims who are forcibly taken by agents of the States and denied access to legal safeguards by removing them from the protection of the law. It causes ill-effects to the victims’ families, not knowing the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. Mothers, wives, and daughters are usually left without any means to tend their families. In South Asian context, wives of the disappeared are called “half-widows’ who are stripped of legal status to obtain pensions and other means of support.  Children of the disappeared equally suffer. They are deprived of a normal family and a good future. No doubt, enforced disappearance sows fear and terror in society.

Many governments employ this atrocious practice as a tool of state repression and political witch-hunt. It is a major human rights concern of more than 80 countries based on the 2010 report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, a thematic UN body created in 1980 to monitor the incidences of enforced disappearances worldwide. Many cases occur in Asian countries, the continent that submitted the highest number of cases.

The Asian region lacks a strong mechanism for redress.  There are no available domestic laws penalizing disappearance as a separate and autonomous criminal offense. Not only are cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances difficult to investigate and prosecute. They recur with each passing day in many Asian countries. Perpetrators can easily walk away from criminal accountability.

Efforts by several governments along with families of the disappeared and international human rights organizations have made possible the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly and its consequent entry into force on 23 December 2010. To date, this international human rights instrument has 90 signatories and 30 States Parties.

It is but imperative for all states to accede to the international treaty against enforced disappearances without reservation and immediately adopt effective national laws to abolish this horrendous practice.

While these legal measures and mechanisms may not bring back the disappeared, they can certainly help in finding truth and justice and in preventing cases from happening again. It only takes one small step to have a leap of change.

Ending impunity should both be a demand and a call for unity and action.

For the disappeared and their families, the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will have deeper meaning through governments’ accession to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the enactment of laws criminalizing disappearances and their full implementation.

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

[Statement] ON FIND’S 26th Founding Anniversary

23 November 2011
STATEMENT ON FIND’S 26TH FOUNDING ANNIVERSARY

The establishment of FIND 26 years ago today, reminds us of the remarkable courage and strength of the nine founding families of the disappeared who braved the wrath of the Marcos dictatorship as they challenged the then moribund regime to surface their missing kin and bring those responsible for their disappearance to justice even as they demanded an end to such heinous offense.

This urgent call on the Marcos regime has been a sad refrain for the succeeding families of desaparecidos under the following C. Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and B.S. Aquino III administrations. In view of the unabated commission of enforced disappearance and the persistence of impunity, FIND now additionally urges strongly the second Aquino administration to prioritize the enactment of a special law penalizing enforced disappearance as an autonomous crime and to sign and accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

FIND believes that these complementary domestic and international measures clearly set best practices that guarantee the right to not be disappeared, remedies and penalties in the event of violation, and reparation to victims. The Convention provides adequate standards against which actions of States vis-à-vis protection from enforced disappearance may be appropriately assessed.

Revisiting the birth of FIND brings back the sterling lives, principles and causes fought for by the early desaparecidos. These social and political activists were among the finest men and women of their generation. They courageously and steadfastly joined and led the people in the collective struggle for freedom, democracy, justice, and peace.

It is indeed deplorable that today FIND pays tribute to the desaparecidos and their families amidst continuing violations of civil liberties and human rights – the very bedrock of human dignity and democracy for which they fought notwithstanding the shackles of political repression.

It is likewise lamentable that FIND begins the 27th year of its struggle for the causes of the disappeared and their families, sharing the pain and anguish of the families, friends and colleagues of the 58 victims of the Maguindanao massacre, one of whom remains missing to this very day. It should be noted that the carnage was planned to be a massive enforced disappearance with the undeniable intent to conceal the fate and whereabouts of the victims by burying their remains in a clandestine mass grave.

The snail-paced prosecution of this two-year old atrocity is no different from government’s foot-dragging in investigating enforced disappearance cases.

To the desaparecidos and all victims of human rights violations, FIND reaffirms today its unwavering commitment to keep the flame of courage ablaze in the hearts of its members to carry on the struggle for respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights fully aware that only history, not a self-righteous President, can truly define the straight path to human dignity.