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IKOHI

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Statement of AFAD

April 12, 2009


Celebrating Life with A Renewed Faith

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble”
(Psalm 9:9)

“Even a good person may still meet with suffering so long as his good deed does not bear fruit; but when it does bear fruit he will enjoy the benefits of his good deed”
(The Dhammapada 120)

“If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in GOD.
He is the Hearer, the Omniscient”
(The QURAN Sura 8:61)

Easter Sunday gives us the reason to hope amidst despair. As Jesus Christ resurrected from the violence of His death, we, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, start to put out the lamp because by our very presence and our continuing struggle, dawn has come and the light of day will continue to illumine our path towards a world without desaparecidos.

There is no Easter if there is no Good Friday. Thus, on this occasion, we reflect on the journey of the little ones of God’s flock – the world’s poor, deprived, oppressed, who, like Christ, carrying the Cross towards Golgotha, continue to suffer from human rights violations where truth and justice are far from sight. Particularly, we ponder on the situation of enforced disappearances in countries where our member-organizations are based – a microcosm of the global scourge of enforced disappearances which makes it imperative for the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance to enter into force.

In Pakistan, the crackdown against the opposition groups headed by the Pakistan Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif has continuously sowed fear among the people. Since March 10, 2009, authorities have been detaining at least 300 activists from the opposition party charged under various provisions of the Maintenance of Public Order Act or simply detained without being charged. This clandestine nature of the arrest and detention of individuals has subjected people to enforced disappearance, torture and summary execution. In 2007, the Pakistan Supreme Court heard petitions of more than 400 disappeared people. Almost 100 of the disappeared were subsequently located. Some of those who reappeared had been detained on apparently false charges.

In Sri Lanka, the internal armed conflict resumed between the government and the LTTE since President Mahinda Rajapakse assumed power in November 2005. Neither side has shown regard for the human rights of the largely Tamil civilian population. This is triggered by the sudden rise of incidences of killings and disappearances of hundreds of Tamils attributed mostly to the state-security forces and paramilitary groups. In the most recent round of fighting that began in September 2008, the Sri Lankan government has refused to allow either humanitarian agencies or the media to operate in the conflict area.

But evil can be overcome by finding the saving grace of God in our hearts in order to bring a lasting peace to humanity. However, it necessitates sacrifices from those who follow the path of goodness. The human rights defenders who put their lives and liberties on the line are our sources of hope. They are some manifestations that in death, there is Resurrection.

In Indonesia, the trial for the murder of Munir Said Thalib, one Indonesia’s leading human rights activists had turned into a haywire when South Jakarta district court acquitted Major General Muchdi Purwopranjono, a former deputy to the State Intelligence Agency (Badan Intelijen Negara or BIN) on 31 December 2008 despite compelling evidence against him. Muchdi had been charged with planning and ordering Munir's killing on a Garuda flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Singapore on 7 September 2004 by a lethal dose of arsenic. Before his untimely death, Munir led the investigation on the abduction of thousands of activists by Kopassus which was then headed by Gen. Muchdi.

In Thailand, since the renewed outbreak of violence in the southern border provinces in January 2004, a number of human rights defenders have been arrested, tortured, disappeared and murdered, allegedly by the security forces. On 8 February 2009, about 20 soldiers and police raided the office of the Working Group for Peace and Justice (WGPJ) in Pattani province and harassed its personnel. Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit, head of WGPJ, believes that the military was targeting her group because it has played a central role in reporting human rights cases in Thailand to the United Nations. She fears that they might suffer the same fate as that of her husband, lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit who was abducted and murdered on 12 March 2004 for exposing a number of cases of torture committed by police. Only one of the five Thai police officers was convicted on 12 January 2006 for a lesser charge of coercion.

In the Philippines, while politicians are busy with the upcoming 2010 national elections, cases of enforced disappearances remain unresolved and the bill criminalizing enforced disappearances has not yet been enacted into law. Mrs. Edita Burgos continue to search for her son; the family of James Balao had already sought international support for the continuing disappearance of its kin – they and several other families whose loved ones disappeared continue to cry for truth and justice.

Very recently, the ongoing probe of the Commission on Human Rights on the spate of killings in Davao City and the disappearance and murder of Rebelyn Pitao, Rebelyn, a schoolteacher and daughter of Leoncio Pitao, alias Commander Parago, head of the New People’s Army’s Pulang Bagani (Red Warrior) Command, has once again pointed to the military and private armed groups associated to the government as culprits. It was the same findings that the task forces and commissions created by the government had concluded in their investigation. This prompted the Action Network Human Rights - Philippines, an initiative of church-based German development agencies to visit the country on 12 – 18 March 2009 to follow–up and review the government’s response to the Alston’s report and the recommendations submitted by the Melo Commission.

As Easter Sunday dawns upon us, violence still prevails. Yet amidst all these, there is every reason for us to celebrate. Life with faith renewed in the face of continuing violence is the reason for celebration. Christ, who died for the ransom of many, has resurrected - a Resurrection that flickers in us a ray of hope that that one day, truth, justice, peace and freedom will emerge triumphant!

In Nepal, the decision of the Maoist-led government to establish a Disappearances and Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a positive step toward ensuring accountability and breaking the chain of impunity. But the Nepali government has yet to ensure that its existing law, in a forum of an Ordinance, be made as an Act of Parliament whose provisions, indeed, truly respond to the needs of the families of the disappeared.

In India, the newly elected Jammu and Kashmir government of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has this historic opportunity to break the routine failure of justice. This can be done by heeding to the clamor of the families of the victims of enforced disappearance and of the international community to create an independent, transparent, and time-bound commission to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and identify those who were buried in unmarked graves. The government must also repeal of the draconian laws that provide the armed forces with extraordinary powers to search, detain, and use lethal force, leading to numerous human rights violations.

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) continues to struggle despite the thorns that bar along the way towards a world without desaparecidos. It joins hands with families of the disappeared persons in Asia and in other continents in partaking the victories on this Resurrection Day. In its more than a decade of life as a Federation, it has seen faces of violence – the murder of its former chairperson, Munir; the killing of its Kashmiri colleague, Aasia Jeelani, the continuing persecution of its Council member in Kashmir, Parvez Imroz and the continuing disappearances of many women and men in the name of national security. These and many other difficulties are reasons to combat the violence of death and to partake in Christ’s Resurrection. This is made possible by continuing this crusade towards a world without desaparecidos.


Signed and authenticated by:

MUGIYANTO MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO
Chairperson Secretary-General

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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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