World: Stop Enforced Disappearances now

Asia Human Rights
May 23, 2016
Reproduced with Permission
Asian Human Rights Commission

Statement of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearance (ICAED) on the Commemoration of the International Week of the Disappeared

22-27 May 2016 - The clamor of the families of victims of enforced disappearance from across the globe to resurface and bring back their disappeared loved ones is louder than ever. Another year has passed and although milestones have been achieved in the collective struggle against this painful phenomenon, enforced disappearance continues to traumatize the lives of innocent families worldwide.

In the August 2015 Report of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID), the number of cases under active consideration stands at 43, 563 in a total of 88 states. It is plausible to theorize that the continuing occurrences of enforced disappearance is associated with the States' lack of sufficient legal mechanisms and frameworks that will safeguard the lives of its citizens from the cruel act of enforced disappearance. The UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Convention), which is an international legal instrument that was adopted to address the issue, is faced with different political challenges. As of May 2016, many states have yet to sign and ratify the Convention and those which have ratified have yet to recognize the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances.

In Asia, only 6 out of 52 states ratified, 11 signed, and 35 have no action on the Convention. The Philippines is the only Asian state that has a domestic law against enforced disappearance while Sri Lanka was the latest to sign the Convention. In Africa, 11 states have already ratified, 27 signed, and 26 have no action. In Europe, 15 states ratified, 29 signed, while 15 have no action. In South America, 9 states ratified, 9 signed, and 4 remain with no action. In North America, only 6 states ratified, 8 signed, and 21 have no action. Finally in Oceania, only 1 state ratified, 3 signed, and 11 remain with no action. It is also important to note that although many states have ratified the

Convention, several of them have not yet recognized the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance (CED). Out of 48 states that ratified the Convention, only 20 have recognized the competence of the CED. In a more positive note, the ICAED lauds the Government of Peru, for having recently recognized the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance on individual complaints in its Congress Resolution No. 30434.

Enforced Disappearance is still a tool of repressive governments to paralyze their political enemies and other innocent communities. In a recent report in Bangladesh, 24 cases of enforced disappearance happened and documented in January 2015 - April 2016. In Bangladesh, enforced disappearance is one of the primary acts perpetrated by law enforcement agencies, paramilitary, and armed forces to detain and even extra-judicially execute individuals.

In Mexico, 545 cases of enforced disappearances have already been transmitted by the UN WGEID to the government from 1980 to 2015. Out of the 545 cases, 43 involved female victims and 68 victims were eventually found dead. In a relatively recent incident on September 2014, 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa were subjected to enforced disappearance in Iguala, state of Guerrero. The burned remains of one of them were found weeks later. The other 42 are still disappeared.

Europe is not spared from enforced disappearance. In Belarus, political disappearances of four persons have not been properly investigated since 1999 despite the fact that the Council of Europe in 2004 produced the report Disappeared Persons in Belarus and demanded the government to take appropriate measures.

Enforced disappearances continue to be a challenge in Zimbabwe as well and currently human rights activists are concerned about the disappearance of human rights activists Paul Chizuze and Itai Dzamara in 2012 and March 2015 respectively. The concern is that it seems the state is not moved by the disappearance of its citizens and the clarion call is for Zimbabwe to come up with legislation against this crime against humanity.

On the occasion of this year's International Week of the Disappeared, ICAED and its 56 member-organizations are now calling on Governments who have not yet signed and ratified the Convention and who have not yet enacted domestic legislation to do so without further delay. The treaty's universal implementation is imperative in a world where enforced disappearances continue to destroy human lives.