Statements of AFAD
Articles on the Proceedings on the AFAD Leadership Training
Jan. 27 - 31, 2003, Philippines
AFAD Second Congress Resolutions
AFAD Second Congress
August 26-30, 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand
AFAD’s Mid-Year Report
Again, The KONTRAS – IKOHI Office Was Attacked
“ If they are dead, tell us”!
My sons, where are they?
HONORING THE DESAPARECIDOS, CARRYING THEIR LEGACY
Statement of the Asian Federation
Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD)
on the occasion of its Second Regular Congress, 26- 30 August 2003
They are martyrs without monuments—heroes with unmarked tombs. They were
the ones who exchanged life so that we may live free from the darkness
of autocracy and the lurking shadows of fear and trembling. They are the
desaparecidos . They are our parents, children, friends and advocates
whose absence has now become the embodiment of our collective courage
and the very stuff of immortality.
Yet, it is ironic that they who have done the monumental task of
defending freedom and fending off tyranny will, in the end, be
remembered by a handful of grieving kin and eulogized by a grateful few.
Hence, this Second Congress of ours is not just a gathering of AFAD
leaders and friends, but an act of remembrance and a eulogy of sorts for
those who have been brutalized and made to disappear.
But such accolade is not only meant for the desaparecidos but also for
those who have been left behind and have continued the struggle for
justice and vindication. Thus, thanks must also be extended to the
hundreds of activists from AFAD member-organizations who have fought
teeth and bone against seemingly impossible odds—from the harshest
military repression to the lingering disinterest of their respective
governments. This Congress is also a testament to the greatness of the
relatives who have not abandoned the search for their loved ones,
clinging to the barest clue and the most minute piece of cloth.
Months before this Congress began, our member-organizations once again
expressed their determination to win in the struggle and disrupt the
equanimity of the powers-that-be.
In India for instance, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons
(APDP) held a hunger strike from April 17-24, 2003 to demand an end to
the spiraling practice of involuntary disappearance in the Jammu and
Kashmir region. To save the government from embarrassment, Chief
Minister Mufti Mohammed Syed was forced to admit that 3,744 cases of
forced disappearance was recorded by the government for the past three
years, a marked contrast to his earlier pronouncement of only 60
victims. Recently, through its Finance Minister, the Indian government
admitted that there is an updated record of 3,931 victims of involuntary
disappearances in the valley. The Indian government pronounced its
program of healing touch and peace with Pakistan, yet ironically, during
the last nine months, already 84 persons disappeared.
In neighboring Pakistan, abductions and arbitrary arrests have become a
political routine, despite its leadership’s rhetorical adherence to
democracy and its close alliance with the United States. Disappearances
usually lead to extra-judicial killings, and staged by the authorities
as military encounters with militant or insurgent forces. Despite this
seemingly murderous pattern however, State agencies still refuse to
acknowledge the cases of abduction and deny any knowledge on the
whereabouts of the victims.
The Tiananmen Mothers Campaign (TMC), a group of parents whose children
disappeared during the infamous “Beijing Massacre” of 1989, issued two
letters addressed to the new Chinese leadership and the Supreme People’s
Procurate respectively, reiterating their demand to have a dialogue with
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. In those same letters, they
further asserted the need to have a thorough investigation of the
incident; to punish those who ordered it; and to compensate the victims’
families. On 4 June 2003, amidst the SARS epidemic, TMC held a
candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hongkong to commemorate the
victims of the Beijing Massacre.
In Indonesia, fours years after the fall of Suharto, authoritarianism is
once again rearing its ugly head, this time in the guise of paramilitary
units out to defend the unity of Indonesia. This was most blatantly
manifested on 28 May 2003 when 150 thugs from the Pemuda Panca Marga
(PPM) attacked and vandalized the office of KontraS — the leading human
rights organization in Indonesia. The incident came about after KontraS’
repeated criticisms of the govenrnment total disregard of human rights
violations in Aceh province. PPM, whose members are wont in sporting
army-like uniforms are alleged to be very close to the military. The
Megawatti government’s declaration of Martial law resulted in the
collapse of the peace process in Aceh, thus contributing to more cases
of involuntary disappearances. The situation in Indonesia has gone from
bad to worse especially with the escalation of the anti-terrorism
In Sri Lanka, the Organization of Parents and Family Members of the
Disappeared (OPFMD) has consistently lobbied for the
institutionalization of various measures meant to prevent abductions and
involuntary disappearance. This includes punishments for the
perpetrators and corollary judicial reforms. The OPFMD is also
advocating for the realization of the recommendations enunciated by the
various Commissions set up to investigate the cases of involuntary
disappearance in the island-state. Moreover, it calls on the Sri Lankan
government to seriously implement the recommendations of the United
Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances during
its third visit to the country in 1999.
Thailand, though usually portrayed as a country of smiles and
tranquility, is no exception from the scourge of involuntary
disappearance. Up to this time, the Relatives Committee of the May 1992
Heroes are still calling on the government to open an investigation on
the 1992 military crackdown that led to the death and disappearance of
hundred of civilians. They also demand that those responsible be brought
to justice as the first necessary step towards national renewal.
In the Philippines, 1,852 cases remain unresolved. The Families of
Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND) is indefatigably lobbying
for the enactment of an “Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act”
in Congress. Such bill will criminalize this terrible deed and, if
approved, will be landmark legislation in Asia. It also provides
compensation for the victims and their families and gives a clear
distinction between involuntary disappearance and other politically
And in the world over, victims and their families, activists and lawyers
are demanding the immediate ratification of the UN Draft Convention on
the Protection of All Persons from Enforced or Involuntary
Disappearances. It is ironic to note however, that though the Caribbean
and Latin American governments have been supportive of the endeavor,
their Asian counterparts have been to be dillydallying, thus proving
that human rights groups would have to exert more effort before a Draft
Convention can be ratified.
Yet, no matter what the cost or the labor that it entails, we who have
been left behind must continue to struggle on. For in a sense, the work
that we undertake today is but a continuum of the sacrifices that the
desaparecidos have done in their own time. And in the process, this AFAD
Congress becomes a part of that continuum, an irreducible element in the
campaign for justice and a beckon for those trembling in fear to hear
their own voice and to trust in the power of a united people.
As our as comrades in Latin America would say: “El
pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido!” “The people, united, will never be
Done this 30th day of August 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand.