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IKOHI

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Torture Me... and I'LL Find You! - Convention on Disappearances

Torture Me… and I’ll Find You!
Carole Vann, Juan Gasparini - InfoSud


4 October 06 - After having worked for years on a Convention on Forced Disappearances, NGOs and Latin America are now working on obtaining recognition of the right to truth at the Human Rights Council.

Torture, imprisonment, executions, disappearances … The trauma left by Latin American dictatorships is still in everyone’s mind. Not convinced? Just look at the number of NGOs that have come from these countries to the Human Rights Council. For years, they have been working behind the scenes to make each delegation aware of the importance of a Convention on Forced Disappearances. Today, their governments are on their side. Together, they are fiercely defending the right to truth in hopes that one day there will be a Convention.

Friday, the first step towards this was taken when Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner, presented a report to the Human Rights Council in which this right is recognised as being “autonomous and inalienable”. The project, which was initiated by Argentina, Chili, Uruguay, Peru, Salvador, and Guatemala, is based on the experiences of the national commissions on truth and reconciliation in South Africa and in former Latin American dictatorships.

Reparation for the victims

Louise Arbour’s document was incidentally elaborated by the Columbian Federico Andreu Guzmán, from the International Commission of Jurists. The study reasserts the existence of the right to truth, which has matured in UN jurisprudence and was taken up again by both the Convention on Forced Disappearances and the Organisation of American States (OAS). The future treaty will mention the “duties and responsibilities” of States to conduct efficient investigations and to make sure that victims receive reparations.

“Not knowing what has happened to our missing is a terrible suffering in and of itself”, explains a Chilean who still doesn’t have any news from her brother who was abducted under Pinochet. This new principle will require signatory countries to do everything in their power to help victims and their families to find the truth. Hence, governments will have to answer individual or family requests and will have to help them find information on mistreatment, the conditions in which suffering took place, and provide them with the advancement and results of investigations undertaken. And in the case of death or disappearance, the family will have the right to demand the identity of the perpetrators.

Within this scope, the UN hopes that governments will ensure group measures in favor of the victims, and also hopes that the field of action of this new tool will be extended to include violations of international humanitarian law i.e. protection of the injured, prisoners as well as civil populations in times of armed conflict.

Fight and destroy impunity

The right to truth would thus constitute another means of fighting against and eradicating impunity. Moreover, it provides implicit recognition of NGOs for their role in the defence of victims. This step will also serve as a warning to States, which will not be able to evoke amnisties or similar measures to limit the right to request information on human rights violations.

“Truth is fundamental to the dignity inherent to human beings”, this is how Louise Arbour’s study is summarised. The High Commissioner urges States to be sure not to minimise the social aspect of this right and the right of a society “to know the truth about past events which refer to horrible crimes committed, as well as to the circumstances in which and the reasons for which they were committed, so as to prevent them from reoccurring in the future.”

Member States are to decide this week what legal framework they will provide for this new innovative right in the UN arsenal.

Source: http://www.humanrights-geneva.info/Torture-Me-and-I-ll-Find-You,625

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IKOHI was set up on September 17, 1998 by the parents and surfaced victims of disappearances. Since then, IKOHI was assisted by KONTRAS, until October 2002 when finally IKOHI carried out it first congress to complete its organizational structure. In the Congress, IKOHI decided its two priority of programs. They are (1) the empowerment of the social, economic, social and cultural potential of the members as well as mental and physical, and (2) the campaign for solving of the cases and preventing the cases from happening again. The solving of the cases means the reveal of the truth, the justice for the perpetrators, the reparation and rehabilitation of the victims and the guarantee that such gross violation of human right will never be repeated again in the future.

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