The ongoing political crisis in Thailand must not sideline the continued efforts to surface the truth regarding the disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit nor it be made a scapegoat to end investigation on the case, now on its 10th year, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) said in a statement.
Somchai Neelaphaijit, a prominent Muslim lawyer, was filing a case of torture against the police in Southern Thailand on behalf of five men who were in their custody prior to his disappearance on 10 March 2004. The area was then under emergency regulation in 2005 after a year of Martial Law. The Department of Special Investigation Division, supposedly an elite unit under the Ministry of Justice tasked to handle the case has not made significant progress in its work to date. Five policemen who were charged for pulling Somchai away from his car were released and only one official, Police Major Ngern Thongsuk was convicted by the Court of First Instance in 2006. However, in 2011, the Appeals Court overturned the decision and all the accused were considered innocent. The decision is currently under review by the Supreme Court.
On this important day honoring the invaluable role of women in the development of society, AFAD pays tribute to the strength and tenacity of the mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunties and grandparents of the disappeared who never wavered in their commitment to search for justice for their disappeared loved ones amidst challenges. It is through their strength that the Federation gets inspiration from in pursuing its advocacies for governments and societies in Asia and the world to end the practice of enforced disappearance.
AFAD also calls on governments especially in Asia to institute legal mechanisms of recourse for justice and restitution claims of women victims of enforced disappearance. The need to ratify the Convention and to enact domestic laws criminalizing enforced disappearance is imperative so that the crime is legally acknowledged and corresponding sanctions for perpetrators as well as preventive measures can be undertaken. Further, victims will be provided necessary relief legally, psychologically, emotionally and financially.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, calls on the government of Bangladesh to drop the charges against Odhikar officials and stop its attacks against the organization as well as the civil and political rights of its citizens.
Odhikar Director, Mr. ASM Nasiruddin Elan and Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary, were both charged of violating Sections 57 (1) and (2) of the Information and Communication Technology Act of 2006 (amended in 2013 immediately after the arrest of Adilur) for allegedly distorting facts in its documentation report of the violence committed by the authorities against a protest activity of Hefazat-e-Islam in May 2013. The government without substantiating denied the report of Odhikar and in retaliation escalated its attacks against Odhikar by arresting its office bearers, raiding its office and confiscating office files and computers. Further, the NGO Affairs Bureau under the office of the Prime Minister also blocked the release of Odhikar funds.
Seoul, South Korea - The AFAD Secretary-General, Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso called on the South Korean government to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in a conference held in Seoul, South Korea, entitled: International Conference on Enforced Disappearances, Solidarity, Strategies and Solutions.
The conference was opened with a moving video on the Korean Air flight YS-11, when the plane was hijacked by North Korean agents in 1969. 11 victims are still remaining in North Korea. In total, more than 500 cases of enforced disappearances against South Korean citizens have been committed by the North Korean Government.