The Asian Federation Against Involuntary
Disappearances (AFAD) forged solidarity with two new human rights
organizations from Nepal and the Philippines
on December 16-19, 2006 in the event of its Third Congress
themed, “Coming Together: Forging a Global Respect for the Right Not
to be Disappeared,” held in Kathmandu, Nepal.
to further widen its reach in the Asian region, after proper review and
evaluation of the membership applications, the AFAD Congress has
accepted Advocacy Forum (Nepal), Claimants 1081, Inc. (Philippines) as
its new member-organizations. The
Working Group on Justice For Peace, whose application was also received,
was requested to submit additional information.
Congress was composed of representatives from the AFAD member-countries
(Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Kashmir, India)
and delegates from AFAD’s network organizations and support group in
Germany and South Africa.
Forum is a leading human rights organization in Nepal which conducts
research and advocacy work on the issue of disappearances. It also provides legal support to the victims and the
families the disappeared have left behind.
Claimants 1081, Inc. is an organization of Marcos victims in the
Philippines. In 1986, the
group filed a case before the US court against the late dictator and his
family for gross human rights violations including disappearance. Seven years later, the US Court in Hawaii, the state where
the Marcoses fled following the People Power Revolution, ruled in favor
of the victims. It ordered
the Marcoses to pay the victims exemplary damages amounting to a total
of $1.2B. [See related
story on p. 16 Ms. Rios’ article]
The Working Group on Justice for Peace emerged from the strong
public campaign of Angkhana Neelaphaijit, wife of disappeared prominent
human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit in Thailand.
Its main focus is to support the family members of the
disappeared by bringing them together as a group to enhance their
security and build their confidence to support each other in their
struggle for truth and justice. [See
related story on p. 24 Ms. Sarosi’s article.]
Thailand and the Philippines which have had other human rights
organizations included in the Federation’s membership [Relatives
Committee and FIND respectively, although the latter already withdrew
its membership last year], Nepal, through the Advocacy Forum, joined
AFAD for the first time. This
has further emphasized the Federation’s commitment to fight
disappearances despite the many life-threatening obstacles surrounding
its advocacy. Based on the
2003 report of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or
Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID), Nepal holds the highest number of
disappearances in Asia.
from the Congress’ analysis of the present Asian situation, enforced
disappearances continue to happen unabatedly in the context of poverty
and “terrorism.” In
some countries such as in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the collapse of
the peace talks between the government and the armed insurgents has
resulted in the increase in the number of disappearance cases and other
gross human rights violations. This
comes despite the unanimous adoption in June 2006 of the United Nations
Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced or
Involuntary Disappearances by the Human Rights Council which is composed
mostly of elected Asian member-states.
light of the Convention’s adoption by the UN General Assembly in
February 2007, the Asian governments further face the challenge of
signing and ratifying the Convention sealing the promise to criminalize
disappearances, resolve the past cases and prevent future
concerned about the present human rights situation in the region,
members of the Congress challenged the Asian governments not only to
make promises on paper but to render genuine actions to these promises
of protecting the people’s rights.
resolutions, AFAD called upon the Indian government to stop
disappearance cases in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir; 10,000
of which were perpetrated by 700,000 members of the Indian Army since it
started in 1989, according to the Association of Parents of Disappeared
Persons. The Armed Forces
Special Powers Act which shields the army from taking responsibility for
their actions must be repealed. As the Indian government has callously refused to organize a
commission to probe into these disappearances, AFAD sought the
intervention of international organizations; that they be allowed to
conduct investigations on the cases.
The congress also raised the issue of the non-renewal of Parvez
Imroz’ passport. Parvez is the patron of the Association of Parents of
Disappeared Persons (APDP), AFAD’s member-organization in Kashmir,
India. This comes in the
light of the Federation’s protest against the government’s
harassment of APDP’s activists, i.e. holding of travel documents.
AFAD challenged India’s claim to be the “world’s largest
Indonesia, over two years have passed since the brutal murder of AFAD
Chairperson Munir, yet the case remains unresolved. Members of the Congress urged Indonesian President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono to grant his 100 percent support to the police
investigation and order the State Intelligence Body (BIN) to
fully cooperate with the investigators. To note, the Fact Finding Team (TPF)
organized by the President to delve into Munir’s case had found
evidences establishing the involvement of BIN’s high-ranking
officers in the murder. In
accordance to the Presidential Decree which ordered the TPF’s
formation, President Yudhoyono must publicly announce the team’s
findings. [See related
story on p. 31 of Atty.
from Munir’s case, AFAD asked that the Attorney General of Indonesia
conduct an investigation on the disappearance cases which occurred in
1997 and 1998 as well as ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators
through the Human Rights Court. Along
with this is a reiteration on its call on the government to invite the
UNWGEID for an official visit.
as the AFAD Third Congress welcomed the peace agreement between the
Government of Nepal and the CPN Maoists and considered it a ray of hope
for the victims of human rights violations, it also expressed its deep
concern regarding both parties’ lack of commitment to resolve the
problem of impunity. The
crucial prerequisite to a just and lasting peace is political will in
solving past problems.