Hope Springs Eternal…
AFAD, 2004 was very painful. Aasia Jeelani of the Association of Parents of
Disappeared Persons was killed by a landmine blast in an election monitoring
duty in the north of Kashmir on April 20, 2004. Four months later, on
September 7, 2004, Munir, the Federation’s Chairperson, was poisoned by a
lethal dosage of arsenic in a Garuda flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam and died
two hours before arrival. The loss of these two committed human rights
defenders caused us pain beyond words can describe.
all these, AFAD held the first-ever Sharing of Experiences of Asian Families of
the Disappeared on December 6-10, 2004 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Entitled: “
Healing Wounds, Mending Scars,” this rehabilitation session was
later documented through a book and a video documentary that both bear the same
title. The most beautiful activity AFAD ever had, it was the Federation’s
serious effort to heal individual and collective wounds brought about by the
scourge of involuntary disappearances.
such a beautiful event was, unfortunately, not meant to be AFAD’S year-ender.
The wrath of nature had its course when the biggest ever-known disaster in
forty years, tsunami, violently killed thousands of people in countries, e.g.
Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, where AFAD members are based. In these
countries, families of the disappeared were themselves killed and
disappeared. It was the biggest shock ever to humanity that occurred on that
fateful day after Christmas.
start of 2005 for the Asian families of the disappeared was gloomy. Such
prompted His Excellency French Ambassador Bernard Kessedjian, Chair of the
United Nations Inter-sessional Open-ended Working group to Elaborate a Draft
Legally-binding Normative Instrument for the Protection of all Persons from
Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to mention the families of the
disappeared in Asia during the opening of the January 2005 session of the said
United Nations, while a significant number of governments had already
explicitly expressed their support to a new Convention protecting persons from
enforced disappearances and an independent monitoring body, a consensus could
not yet be reached at that point. Hence, His Excellency Kessedjian, in his
report before the 61st session
of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, proposed for a
ten-day meeting of the same body in September 2005 so as to finally, achieve
consensus on the form and substance of the instrument and its monitoring body.
United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID)
speaks that Asian countries still remain the continent having the highest
number of cases submitted with Nepal being on top of the list. Thus, the
UNWGEID’s 75th session
will be held on May 26-June 3, 2005 in Bangkok, Thailand - the first time ever
outside of Geneva or New York. It is an effort of this reconstituted body to
talk to Asian organizations. This meeting coincides with the 13th anniversary
of the Black May. 13 years after, the black stains of Black May remains
indelible and will remain to be so for as long as truth, justice, redress and
the collective memory of the disappeared shall not have been achieved.
AFAD prepares for the UNWGEID meeting in Bangkok, it continues the uphill
struggle for the truth and justice about the still unresolved political
assassination of Munir.
day after Kashmir’s Solidarity Day on April 20, 2005, the first death
anniversary of Aasia Jeelani, families of the disappeared laid a foundation
stone for the monument of the disappeared – almost four years since that first
foundation stone was taken by the Indian police two hours after the ground
breaking. On April 30, 2004, Atty. Parvez Imroz, AFAD Council member from
Kashmir, was threatened when a gunman attempted to enter his house at wee hours
in the morning.
speaks of healing wounds and mending scars, while realizing that this is a
rather difficult and almost impossible process, especially with the
never-ending human rights violations committed to our very own human rights
defenders while disappearances remain unresolved and continue unabated.
can we savor the fruits of our struggle? When the new day ever dawn? When
will our struggles be finally laid to rest? Hope springs eternal.