Abril 9, 2007

ASIA: Enforced disappearances in Asia

March 23, 2007

A Joint Statement by Forum-Asia, Asian Legal Resource Centre, INFID and Pax Romana

ASIA: Enforced disappearances in Asia

The following is a joint statement by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), Asian Legal Resource Centre, International NGO Forum on Indonesia Development (INFID), and Pax Romana, in cooperation with the Asian Federation Against Disappearances (AFAD) at the 4th Session of the Human Rights Council on Thursday, March 22, 2007:

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Special Procedures for their work and to reiterate our entire support for them. We are concerned in particular by the lack of cooperation of States with these procedures’ work. Asia is the scene of many of the world’s forced disappearances. Concerning 229 actions taken last year by the working group on disappearances in Asia, only 78 clarifications were received from governments, with 75 of these coming from Nepal. Of grave concern here is that several leading violators represent Asia in this Council, which seriously undermines this body in its infancy.

The lack of: disclosure of whereabouts; credible, impartial and effective investigations; laws criminalizing disappearance; successful prosecution of perpetrators; and reparation for victims and/or their families are barriers found throughout Asia.

In Pakistan’s Balochistan province alone, more than 4000 people have reportedly disappeared as the result of military operations between 2001 and late-2005 – they have not been produced before court by the military intelligence agencies, such as the notorious ISI, and their whereabouts remain unknown. More than 1000 people have also disappeared in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) during the same period. In 2006, over 600 new cases of disappearance have been recorded in the country, placing Council-member Pakistan amongst the world leaders in disappearances.

In Sri Lanka, disappearances are once again on the rise and the government is in a state of denial, which is as incomprehensible as it is unacceptable, given the country’s past experiences. During this session of the Council, a government representative has publicly rejected reliable information concerning hundreds of recent disappearances. We urge the authorities to immediately make public the findings of the one-man commission looking into disappearances. Delays to a visit by the working group on disappearances must cease, allowing it to be carried out early this year.

In Indonesia, impunity for large-scale disappearances in 97/98 and in West Papua and Aceh is ensured due to political blockages. The Attorney General is failing to launch investigations and the Parliament is stalling the process of engaging the President to set up ad-hoc human rights courts to take up cases of disappearance.

In the Philippines, around 200 disappearances attributable to the State have been reported since 2001. These occur in parallel to the ongoing wave of politically-motivated killings in the country and should be considered and addressed as part of the same phenomenon.

In Nepal, while disappearances have decreased significantly since the presence of the OHCHR - which must be extended - the army and the Maoists are refusing to disclose the whereabouts of at least 650 and 181 disappeared persons respectively, and there is little to indicate that human rights and impunity are being addressed in reality rather than rhetorically in the emergent system in the country.

The afore-mentioned members of the Council and Nepal must cease their practice and denial of disappearances, and accept and act upon their responsibility to investigate and prosecute all perpetrators, and ensure adequate reparation to the victims and their families. They must all ensure that forced disappearance is criminalised under national law and that they ratify and implement the new UN Convention against enforced disappearances. They must ensure standing invitations to all relevant Special Procedures and cooperate fully with their work. The Human Rights Council should take a serious look at its membership, including States vying for election this year, and seek to immediately correct the presence of gross violators amongst its ranks, or risk a collapse of credibility.

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About ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at local and national levels throughout Asia.

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