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Cover Story
Entry into Force of
the International
Convention for the
Protection of All
Persons from Enforced
Disappearance and
Future Perspectives

News Features
The Ratification of the
International Convention for
the Protection of All Persons
from Enforced Disappearance
by Indonesia: The Long-Awaited

Victims of Disappearances
– Still Waiting for Justice in
Sri Lanka

From ‘Healing Wounds, Mending
Scars’ to ‘From Survivors to

Bogor, Bond and Basho
Memoirs of AFAD Fourth

UN WGEID and the 1992 UN
Declaration on Disappearances

Hiding Behind Lies

Photo Essay
Ang Mamatay Nang Dahil Sa
Iyo: A Nationwide University
Roadshow on Extra-Legal
Killings and Enforced

On Latin America
Trekking Latin American Terrains
in the Pursuit of Truth and

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico:
Laboratory of the Future

Unsilenced: A Review

Reflections from the Secretariat
Bird’s View on the Crows’ Nest: A
Visit to Sri Lanka

Conference Report
Reclaiming Stolen Lives:
Forensic sciences and human
rights investigations conference

Solidarity Message
Thank you very much,
Patricio Rice

AFAD Statement on the Visit of
UNWGEID to TImor Leste

Odhikar Congratulates
the People of Egypt on their
Victory for Human Rights and

Mind Teasers


Literary Corner
By the Wayside

Cover Background Source:
“Time Tunnel”
by Thomas Leiser



Bogor, Bond and Basho Memoirs of AFAD Fourth Congress

by Dhiraj Kumar Pokhrel


The Arrival

Beads of sweat streamed down my temples as we came out of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Tangerang, Indonesia. We saw a lean figure with a placard held high written “Mrs. Dhiraj Pokhrel” in bold letters.

My friend chuckled with her usual grin. I felt a little embarrassed.

To her horror and my utmost pleasure, another placard surfaced out of the crowd reading “Mr. ... “.

Relieved, I, with a reflexive smirk, tried to read her reaction.

Boomeranged, she answered back with a frown.

After exchanging few pleasantries with the innocent duo who unwittingly perpetrated the  “inversion” offense, we lunged towards the parking lot bathed in sweat; streams had started producing occasional rapids by then.

Inferno! I yelled out as we sat in blistering seats roasted in the tropical sun. The chauffeur turned the AC on to normalize things. Heaving a sigh of relief, my friend mopped her brow. Draughts started seeping through the skins in no time.

As I closed my eyes to do justice to my body - whose right to sleep was transgressed during the 12hour of tedious transit in Bangkok - I remembered the famous haiku by Japanese poet Basho:  

An ancient pond,

The Frog Jumps


I got disappeared into the depths of oblivion.

 The City of Rain

A cool drizzle welcomed us as we reached to Hotel Pramesthi in Bogor, West Java, 60-km far from Jakarta, Indonesian capital. I felt at home as soon as my eyes fell upon a life-sized statue of Lord Ganesha at the entrance of the hotel. The Moslems of Indonesia regard Lord Ganesha highly and use his idols and statues as a lucky charm and install them in their houses and business centers.

Rain and Lord Ganesha – two auspicious signs – the stay at Kota Hujan1 seemed to augur well for me, I felt.

The hotel was a classic one: it looked like a small hill-city interspersed by a river. I was given the key to a room that was on the other side of the river. I walked across a metallic bridge to get to my room; the river was raging under the bridge. I took shower and changed quickly to attend the session that had commenced early in the morning (we were already late by two afternoons to attend the program thanks to the blunder of our travel agent in Nepal who post-dated our tickets).

I tried to remember the theme and objectives of the congress as I rushed towards the meeting venue. The theme was : “Consolidate the Gains of More than a Decade of Struggle: Face Challenges of the Entry Into Force of the Convention”; and the objectives were: to validate the correctness of the results of the AFAD internal evaluation which will be done by all bodies within the Federation; to sum-up AFAD’s implementation of its 6-year strategic plan formulated during the 3rd Congress; to prepare a three-year plan based on the review of AFAD’s implementation of its 6-Year Strategic Plan; to review the organizational set up of the Federation vis-à-vis the need to network with as many human rights organizations as possible in order to respond better to the demands of the work and taking into consideration and political and human rights situation in Asia, especially in countries where AFAD member-organizations are based; to review and amend AFAD’s Orientation, Constitution and By-Laws; to decide on applications for membership and other matters related to membership; and, to elect a new set of officers.

Age hadn’t blanched my memory, I felt proud of myself

As I entered the meeting hall, a tea-break announcement was made. My journey to the tea-stand was punctuated by several handshakes, smiles and smile-backs, back pats and hi-there(s). I took a cup of hot water and went to Darwin Mendiola from the AFAD Secretariat to learn what happened during the public event we missed.

The rain had started gathering momentum, so did the river.

Darwin recounted: “The inaugural session was held in the Aryaduta Hotel in Jakarta yesterday (31 March 2010). It was graced and addressed by Indonesian Minister of Justice, Patriales Akbar and the Honorable Chairperson of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID), Mr. Jeremy Sarkin. It was also participated in by the National Commission on Human Rights and other government agencies, some foreign embassies, members of the civil society in Indonesia, the media from Jakarta and families of the disappeared and other victims of human rights violations. Representatives of the Steering Committee of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED), who had its meeting in Jakarta prior to the AFAD Congress, were also present.

“ Flashes of lightening and thunderclaps continued in the background.

“The event also became a venue to express solidarity with families of the disappeared and civil society organizations in Indonesia and to pressure the Indonesian government to realize its promise to sign the Convention. The public event ended with the expectation and hope that Indonesia would sign and ratify the Convention without further delay. It ended with high spirits among the participants and that in the next meeting of AFAD in Indonesia, there would be a victory party for the ratification of the Convention. It also served to bolster the morale of families of the disappeared both from Indonesia as well as from other countries who were present during the event”, Darwin said in his usual dignified tone.

“Time’s over, let’s get inside ladies and gentlemen,” a lady hollered.

We went inside. The roundtable was occupied by an assortment of faces: the AFAD’s memberorganizations’ representatives from India, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Timor Leste and the Secretariat from the Philippines, including selected staff members from KontraS and IKOHI, along with representatives from FEDEFAM, We Remember-Belarus and the Asian Human Rights Commission based in Hong Kong.

Outside, the rain had started to grow torrential; deluge of opinions and visions avalanched inside.


Mama’s Cry

Tears streamed profusely from wizened visage of Mama from KontraS as she recounted the story of her son’s disappearance. In the midst of her speech, she mumbled some long incoherent sentences that the translator was unable to translate. Yet, I could feel that everybody clearly understood what she was trying to convey.

Human rights are universal; human emotions existential, I concluded. Tears don’t tear us apart but bind us in a higher universal bond.

The downpour continued to feed the raging river; Mama’s tears administered adrenaline to the participants.

Mama’s cry was followed by a presentation session whereby each member-organization presented the human rights situation in their respective countries with a special focus on the phenomenon of enforced disappearances and the work done by the Federation vis-à-vis the plan of action and the organizational status of each member-organization, including its expectations from AFAD. Ms. Fe Garcia presented a SWOT analysis of AFAD’s work for the last three years while Mr. Ted Borrero presented some of the results of his interviews which he did with the AFAD member-organizations in their respective countries.

We, the dews of AFAD,
will certainly wash the dust of disappearance out of the globe...


Planning, Resolutions and Amendments

The incessant rainfall had left the river swollen to dangerous proportions. We could see the uprooted trees and other wreckages flow downstream. The water-level had considerably risen and was occasionally crossing the safety dykes. The hotel staffers were busy pulling out a big tree and other materials that were blocking the river’s normal course. The drift was threatening, yet they were resolutely flexing their muscles to clear the blockage. They even used some conduits to direct the water back into the river.

A fellow representative from Kashmir commented:

“The dykes are not properly designed. In case the rain persisted and there are blockages on the way, the river will certainly go off-course and might sweep the hotel away.”

The hotel staffers were busy clearing the river; the AFAD representatives started streamlining their working procedures via a conscious planning.

The representatives were divided into two groups: one comprising of AFAD member-organizations from Southeast Asia and the other, the AFAD memberorganizations from South Asia. The other participants from other continents were distributed between the two groups. A video sent by Professor Gabriella Citroni, University of Milano, was presented and viewed by the Congress delegates and other participants regarding challenges for AFAD, the entry into force, more ratifications and implementation of the Convention. A format for planning was given for the purpose of uniformity and easy collation of plans.

The planning was followed by resolution writing. Representatives of memberorganizations were assigned to draft each own country resolution, which when drafted, was presented to the body for discussion, editing and finalization. Based also on the reports, the Congress Statement was drafted and discussed and finalized by the body. Alongside, three letters were drafted and finalized: A letter to the government of El Salvador pressing it to sign and ratify the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; a solidarity letter to the Tiananmen Mothers on the occasion of their 21st anniversary; a letter in support to Judge Garzon of Chile.

With much heave-ho, the hotel staffers were able to pull out a big trunk that had got entangled in stones. They concentrated themselves on clearing other wreckages that were forcing the river to flow astray.

The representatives busied themselves and started reviewing policy documents of AFAD, i.e. Orientation, Constitution and By-laws, for possible amendments vis-à-vis the developments in the situation of the Asian region and the developments of AFAD. Some major amendments were made to respond to the new needs and challenges of the Federation in the next three years. During the discussion of the basic documents, the Congress decided to accept the resignation of Claimants 1081 in the Philippines on the basis of its being non-functional and of its inability to respond to the questions of the AFAD Council regarding the implementation of its rehabilitation activity in 2008. Another important decision on membership was the acceptance of the application of a Nepal-based organization of victims, Conflict Victims’ Society for Justice-Nepal.

The review session was followed by an election. The Council members were chosen by acclamation. There were some new faces, including mine, in the Council and some of them were reelected:

Mugiyanto – Chairperson

Mandira Sharma – Treasurer

Mary Aileen D. Bacalso – Secretary-General


Timor Leste – Sisto Dos Santos

APDP-Kashmir – Parvez Imroz

IKOHI – Indonesia – Simon

KontraS – Sri Suparyati

Advocacy Forum – Dhiraj Pokhrel

Conflict Victims Society –Council member has yet to be determined

Truth and Justice Commission – Farooq Niazi Justice for Peace Foundation – Angkhana Neelaphaijit

Relatives Committee of the May 1992 Heroes – Boonthan Verawongse


Of Dust and Dew

The inclemency was gone and the sun shined happily all afternoon. The tropical humidity again started seeping through the skins. However, the sweats symbolized the tough days ahead and a challenge to hold the AFAD’s flag high and to orchestrate the AFAD’s cause and campaign.

Inferno of impunity and we are just a handful bespattered drops!

I became a bit nervous. I, nevertheless, realized suddenly that AFAD, as a formidable weapon, is there, to normalize things. I remembered Mama’s tears and felt a surge of energy inside me. As I lay in bed and tried to have some rest, another haiku by Basho flashed unto me:

I like to wash,

the dust of this world

In the droplets of dew

We, the dews of AFAD, will certainly wash the dust of disappearance out of the globe – I silently vowed.  


1 Bogor is often referred to as Kota Hujan meaning “City of Rain”


Dhiraj Kumar Pokhel. A human rights advocate, Dhiraj is the Council Member for Advocacy Forum-Nepal for the AFAD.



The VOICE March 2011

Copyright 2011 
AFAD - Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
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