Today, the world commemorates the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Enforced Disappearances is one of the recurring tragedies that is happening throughout the world. Many countries, particularly less-developed countries, now adopt enforced disappearances as the easiest way of dealing with problems that Governments find difficult to cope with. The twin evils of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings remain as the two major problems in several Asian countries.
Bangladesh has recorded several hundreds of enforced disappearances of political opponents of the present Ruling Party within the last few months. The matter has been well publicized. But there have not been any serious interventions in order to bring an end to this iniquity. Other countries such as Pakistan, several parts of India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines are among the countries which are prominent in the practice of enforced disappearances.
The complexity of dealing with enforced disappearances is due to the many sections that are involved in causing enforced disappearances. On the one hand, the orders for clearance of the policy of resorting to enforced disappearances involve the topmost layers of governments. Carrying out its resort goes to the military, police and also para-military sections. The moment a Policy of Disappearances is approved by a Government, there begins to develop a secret state within the state. With Government sanction, the open state comes to a standstill and the secret state begins to operate.
Entire legal procedures regarding arrest and detention are virtually suspended. Allowance is made for secret arrests and secret detentions as well as secret torture chambers. Basic functions within the State relating to the judging of guilt and punishment comes to a halt. Judges totally lose their role in dealing with matters of arrests, detentions, and fair trial. The place of the Judges is taken over by ordinary Police Officers, the military and even para-military. Secret decisions are made about the LIFE of a person, and these decisions are IMMEDIATELY carried out.
Although Governments’ claim that there will be inquiries into the matter and the guilty will be prosecuted, this hardly ever happens. It is due to the complexity of the operations and the many powerful persons who are associated with these operations. A simple argument that develops at this point is: the Government has authorized and even ordered us to carry out such operations. How can they now demand that we should be punished for carrying out such orders?
Enlightened opinion prevalent today has also failed to address this important issue. Somehow a matter of such great importance goes virtually unnoticed. Any amount of jurisprudential thought on these issues, and international policy development in dealing with Governments which are engaged or have been engaging in disappearances, IS NOT VISIBLE AT ALL.
As another year goes by, there will be many additional victims of Enforced Disappearances. Will there be an attempt, at both local and international levels, to put up severe resistance to end this practice? This includes the restoration of the other factors of: a fair trial and the role of Judges in this equation. This remains as one of the major issues that concern Human Rights in our world today. When the lives of so many people are so blatantly destroyed, how can Human Rights be spoken of with any kind of significance and importance?
THIS IS THE QUESTION THAT PEOPLE ARE ASKING.
The fate of Victims of Enforced Disappearances is one of the urgent concerns voiced today. Victims should be given more protection. Victims should and need to be heard by all sectors of society. A genuine response to their cries for help is what is needed NOW.