CONSOLIDATE THE GAINS OF MORE THAN A DECADE OF STRUGGLE:
FACE THE CHALLENGES OF THE ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE CONVENTION
We, the delegates and participants to the Fourth Congress of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), with the theme, "Consolidate the Gains of More than A Decade of Struggle: Face Challenges of the Entry into Force of the Convention" coming from, Belarus, Bolivia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Timor Leste and Thailand are gathered together here in Bogor, Indonesia to celebrate a momentous and historical occasion of reaching this new milestone in the journey towards a world without disappearances.
As we hold this Fourth Congress, we have collectively looked back and weighed our work for the last three years while moving forward to the future with a collective organizational vow to further develop our organizational strength and capacity as a regional federation in order to effectively respond to the challenges of the present times.
Enforced disappearance is a continuing phenomenon in one hundred countries based on the 2009 report of UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID). Many of these cases occur in 27 countries of Asia, which is the continent that submitted the highest number of cases to the UNWGEID in recent years. Common to all of these countries is the prevailing impunity that allows perpetrators to escape accountability. While the uncertainty of the victimsâ€™ fate inflicts untold sufferings and immeasurable pain on both the disappeared victims and their families, most of the cases that have taken place over decades in the region have not been seriously investigated and the fate and whereabouts of victims remain unknown.
In Timor Leste, approximately 186,000 to 250,000 people died and made to disappear during the Indonesian occupation of Timor Leste based on report of the Truth, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission of Timor-Leste, entitled, "Chega!" But after achieving the independence in 1999, both the Indonesian and Timor Leste governments have continually ignored the recommendations submitted by the Commission on Truth and Friendship and the continuing cry of victimsâ€™ families for justice. The release of indicted militia leader Martenus Bere who is suspected to be one of those responsible for the past atrocities is not only an insult to the families and survivors but also a breach to the spirit of friendship and reconciliation. An AFAD lobby group met Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta on 25 November 2009, in Dili, East Timor. The president made a clear commitment that he would undertake all efforts to sign and ratify this international treaty before the end of 2009. He noted that had he been alerted earlier, the government of Timor-Leste could have already been a state party.
In war-torn area of Jammu and Kashmir, around 8,000 people disappeared since the onset of armed conflict across the state in 1989, who are generally attributed to Indian security forces. The Association of Parents of the Disappearad Persons (APDP) has recently found more or less 2, 900 unmarked graves in cemeteries of 18 villages near the Line of Control, dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Families believed that their disappeared relatives could have ended up in these unmarked graves. The government of India has still to officially respond to the report on the said mass graves, entitled " Buried Evidence," which was presented to the Indian government on 2 December 2009.
In Indonesia, human rights is still a major concern that needs to be immediately addressed particularly the impunity for past abuses including cases of enforced disappearance, the slow pace of military reform, and lack of investigations on the atrocities in Aceh and Papua. The unresolved murder of Munir Said Thalib, one of the Indonesiaâ€™s prominent human rights lawyers and former AFAD Chairperson, who was killed by arsenic poisoning in a Garuda flight from Singapore to Amsterdam, on 7 September 2004 continuously undermines the rule of law with the acquittal of Major General (ret.) Muchdi Purwopranjono. The Commission on Inquiry of the Disappearances that is investigating the case of 13 Indonesian Activists of 1997 -1998 came up with a four-point recommendation to President Sucilo Bambang Yudhoyono as a result of the meeting with human rights organizations which include the establishment of the Adhoc Human Rights Court; take appropriate steps to immediately locate the whereabouts of 13 people cited as still missing by Komnas Ham; to facilitate the rehabilitation and satisfactory compensation to victims and/or the families of the disappeared; and to sign and ratify the UN Convention For the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
In Nepal, hundreds of enforced disappearances took place during the ten year conflict between the government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) which ended in 2006 by both parties signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. However, the cases of disappearance remain unresolved up to this day despite efforts of Nepali government to institute some legal reforms. The draft bill for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was strongly opposed by civil society for it allows granting of amnesties to the perpetrators. The same is true with the anti-disappearance bill which was approved in a form of an ordinance but was retracted following clamors of foul play by the national and international human rights organizations.
In Pakistan, thousands of persons have been subjected to enforced disappearance, mostly from Balochistan province and from the North Western Frontier Province, Sindh and Punjab. The number of cases has sharply increased since Pakistan joined the "war on terror" campaign. Still, as a result of the constant protests and petitions in courts by families of the disappeared, and with the clear resolve on the part of the Supreme Court by issuing orders to the military to produce the detainees before the courts, the government has finally acknowledged the custody of dozens of alleged terror suspects, but in most cases, the intelligence agencies continue to defy these judicial orders in the name of national security.
In the Philippines, more than 2,000 people are victims of enforced disappearance since the dark days of martial law up to the present. Disappearances are mostly carried out as a result of the counter-insurgency operations of the government against the communist and secessionist groups. Although, the number of cases of disappearances had dropped significantly in 2007, the political persecution against known progressive and opposition leaders by slapping them with trumped-up criminal charges, continues unabated. Impunity still holds sway as the Philippine government has failed to pass a domestic legislation penalizing enforced disappearance and neglects its voluntary pledge to the UN Human Rights Council stating that it would sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The government has still to positively respond to the 2007 request of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country and to implement the latterâ€™s recommendations during its first visit in 1990.
In Thailand, enforced disappearance continues unabated. The recent escalation of political violence in central district of Bangkok between the police forces and the Red-Shirt protesters and the ongoing military operations in southern provinces are feared to have resulted in more cases of disappearances. While recent cases have not been fully investigated by the authority, the perpetrators of past human rights violations particularly the military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok in May 1992 remained unpunished. The unresolved disappearance case of Atty. Somchai Neelaphajit, a human rights lawyer who disappeared in Bangkok in 2004 also continues to be a litmus test to the Thai judicial system.
Recognizing the bleak reality of human rights in Asia, where no country has a domestic law criminalizing enforced disappearance and a strong and effective regional mechanism for human rights protection, we deem it imperative to have a universal legally binding instrument which contains an agreed definition of the crime of enforced disappearance and establishes state obligations with regard to its prevention, investigation and repression. The International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance is an effective tool to help strengthen governments' capacities to combat enforced disappearances, punish the perpetrators and guarantee justice and redress to victims and their families. To date, 83 states have already signed and 18 States have ratified the Convention and that only more two ratifications are lacking for the treatyâ€™s entry into force.
As we continue with this arduous journey, we closely link arms in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Latin America, Africa and Europe by transcending regional boundaries and cultural differences in order to learn for each otherâ€™s experiences, establish mutual support and cooperation and work together at the international level under the umbrella of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) in pushing for the immediate entry into force of the Convention.
Today as we also commemorate our 12th founding anniversary, we pay tribute to the great men and women who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the disappeared. Their contribution to our struggle has deeply inspired us to endlessly serve as the regional voice of the victims and their families. With this inspiration, we persistently resonate the call to all States to undertake all possible means to prevent and eradicate the heinous practice of enforced disappearance and to bring to justice all those who believed to be responsible for the crime; refrain from any act of intimidation or reprisals against human rights defenders who contribute to the prevention of this practice; and to combat impunity.
We therefore strongly urge Asian and other governments to promote, protect and fulfill the Asian peoplesâ€™ rights and welfare by taking these following measures:
1. To vigorously, thoroughly and impartially investigate cases of enforced disappearances that occurred in the past and continuously happening up to this day and to work at all cost so that truth shall be ferreted, perpetrators be brought to justice and reparation to victims be provided;
2. To pass a domestic law penalizing the act of enforced disappearance as a distinct criminal offense;
3. To repeal draconian laws in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir that grant unchecked powers to security forces to commit human rights abuses and to conduct proper investigation on the recently discovered mass graves of 2,900 people in the north of Kashmir as stated in the report, "Buried Evidence";
4.To expedite the process of establishing an independent and credible Commission on Disappearance in Indonesia, Timor Leste as mandated by the Commission on Truth and Friendship and to establish a Tribunal on Crimes Against Humanity for Timor Leste;
5.To resolve enforced disappearances cases in Belarus during the late â€˜90s and to promote and protect human rights of the Belarusian people;
6. To expedite the process of establishing an independent and credible Commission on Truth and Reconciliation in Nepal and Indonesia;
7. To resolve gross violations of human rights committed during the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen massacre and stop all forms of repression in China;
8. To support the struggle of Judge Baltasar Garson for the search for justice for the families of Spain and other parts of the world;
9. To sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances without further delay.
Finally, with one voice and one spirit, linking arms with our sisters and brothers in Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Euro- Mediterranean countries, reaffirm our firm resolve to implement the specific resolutions of this 4th Congress and be true to its theme. We once again renew our unwavering commitment in the struggle for the eradication of enforced disappearance and to endlessly work for the attainment of truth, justice, reparation and the reconstruction of the historical memory of desaparecidos not only in Asian region but all over the world.
SIGNED BY THE DELEGATES AND PARTICIPANTS of the AFAD's Fourth Congress on 1-5 June 2010 in Bogor, Indonesia
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