In the context of justice and human rights,
impunity continues to haunt the world. Impunity, in the sense that
perpetrators are not being held accountable whatsoever, neither
through judicial nor non-judicial mechanisms for the violation of
human rights they committed, remains the reality of the day. It is
rampant particularly in the regions of Asia, Africa, Latin America
and even Europe.
Impunity does not merely signify that the
perpetrators are unaccountable and enjoying freedom, but also
entails consequences that they will continue to commit human rights
violations in the future including the practice of enforced
Asia, which has submitted the largest number of
cases of disappearances to the United Nations Working Group on
Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID), is a safe haven
for the perpetrators of disappearances. War against terrorism and
separatism, coupled with the implementation of a doctrine of
national stability, has been the pretext of these practices.
In countries like China, India, Indonesia, Nepal,
Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and many more,
disappearances continue to occur. This situation casts Asia now into
a parallel situation with Latin America more than thirty years ago
where disappearances were common. The only difference, however, is
that in Latin America, there are continuing inroads in the struggle
against impunity by dint of the indefatigable efforts of the
mothers, grandmothers, children, sisters, brothers and relatives of
the disappeared. Asia has still to prove its capacity to combat
enforced disappearances beyond information dissemination drive by
attaining concrete breakthroughs in the prosecution of perpetrators.
Initiatives have been taken by individual
victims, victimsí groups, human rights NGOs and broad sectors of
civil society to address the issue of impunity in the context of the
struggle for truth, justice, reparation and the reconstruction of
the historical memory. Lamentably, very often, these initiatives
only end with a wall of unwillingness and resistance by governments.
In a number of cases, victims are faced with reprisal by the
government along with very concrete expressions of impunity. In very
few cases, some governments attempt to fulfill their obligations by
conducting inquiries, investigations and even prosecution.
Legislations were passed, yet these attempts to fulfill statesí
obligations are done not for the purpose of attaining truth and
justice but intended only to impress the public nationally and
internationally in order to create a
pro-human rights image. Unfortunately the ultimate consequences are
the full enjoyment of impunity by the perpetrators.
It is against this background that AFAD humbly
publishes this book entitled Reclaiming Stolen Lives. This
book describes the dark phenomenon of enforced disappearances in
Asia and AFADís uphill efforts to respond to this scourge on local,
regional and international levels. Responses of governments to the
practice of disappearances and the initiatives by the victims and
NGOs are also projected in order for us to know governmentsí
positions vis-ŗ-vis human rights and how AFAD and other civil
society organizations respond. These are some rays of hope in a
climate of impunity.
The statistics on the desaparecidos in the
region, albeit speaks of only a partial number of cases, depicts not
just hollow figures but of lives stolen from the bosom of the
victimsí loved ones. Our Federation intends to project
disappearances as a social issue, presenting these graphs as
concrete witnesses to this malady. A disappeared poet from Indonesia
, Wiji Thukul once stated in a poem he wrote in June 1997:
I am not a newsmaker artist
But I am always a nightmare for every ruler
My poems are not poems
They are dark words
Sweaty looking for way out in crowds.
AFAD publishes this book for the public to be aware of and be
involved in the struggle to put an end to the practice of
disappearances. Reclaiming Stolen Lives is dedicated to all
victims and relatives of victims of enforced disappearances all over
the world who were plucked from their families and society as a
consequence of their struggle for truth, justice and human rights.
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances