An Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) Statement on the Commemoration of International Day of the Disappeared on August 30 was shared with journalists and media personnel worldwide today.

Signed by Chairperson Mugiyanto and Secretary General Mary Aileen D Bacalso of AFAD and dated August 30, the release reads:

Today, we honor all victims of enforced disappearance, considered one of the cruelest forms of human rights violations. In 2010,  recognizing the global magnitude of the crime and the never ending sufferings of the desaparecidos’ families, the United Nations officially recognized August 30 as the International Day of the Disappeared.  The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), which is the Focal Point of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances, joins all the families of the disappeared and human rights advocates world-wide in commemorating this day by resonating the call for an end to enforced disappearance and by renewing its organizational commitment to take action.

Enforced disappearance is an international phenomenon. It is a major concern of 94 countries based on the 2010 report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (UN WGEID). Many of these cases occur in 27 countries of Asia, a continent that has the highest number of cases submitted to the UNWGEID in recent years. Unfortunately, Asia lacks a strong regional mechanism for redress. No Asian country has a domestic law penalizing enforced disappearance as a separate and autonomous criminal offense. This condition perpetuates a climate of impunity allowing perpetrators to escape accountability and increasing possibilities for repetition.

Indeed, globally, thousands of people are forcibly disappeared by their own governments or individuals or groups acting on states’ authorization, support or acquiescence.  Bereft of legal safeguards, they are often tortured, confined under constant fear or threat of death, and in many instances, murdered without any trace.

Their families are equally victimized, not knowing their loved ones’ fate and whereabouts and are put in a perpetual state of hope and despair, wondering and waiting, pleading and demanding for answers that may never ever come.

We reckon that enforced disappearance has a particular universal impact on women and children. Most of the disappeared are men.  Hence, women who are usually left behind to tend to their families bear the brunt of serious hardships. When women are themselves direct victims of disappearance, they are particularly vulnerable to sexual and other forms of violence. The children of the disappeared are also victims. The disappearance of a child or of a parent is a serious violation of children’s rights.

As we remember all the desaparecidos of the world, we demand that the perpetrators of enforced disappearances be brought to justice.  A concrete step to combat impunity is to urge all governments to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (The Convention).  The Convention which was adopted in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly, entered into force on 23 December 2010.  To date, this international human rights instrument has 88 signatories and 29 States Parties.  To ensure its implementation, States are under the obligation to codify enforced disappearance in their statute of books.  To note, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, composed of 10 individual experts, was established on 31 May 2011 to ensure the treaty’s implementation.

Today, member-organizations of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, through varying forms of public awareness, call for a stop to enforced disappearances and reiterate their call to all States to sign and ratify the Convention, recognize the competences of the Committee Against Enforced Disappearances, enact domestic laws penalizing enforced disappearance and end enforced disappearances NOW.

As we pay tribute to all the desaparecidos of the world, we must also highlight the long drawn struggle of the families and human rights organizations particularly in Asia to obtain truth and justice and to work for the complete eradication of enforced disappearance from the face of the earth.

The International Day of the Disappeared is a time to remember and in remembering, we must take action.