ASIA: Large numbers of disappearances not addressed despite efforts of UN Working Group

An Oral Statement to the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

ASIA: Large numbers of disappearances not addressed despite efforts of UN Working Group

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) applauds the invaluable work of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. It also welcomes the entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The ALRC urges all Council members and observers to ratify this important new instrument without delay or reservation and ensure its full and effective implementation. 

Asia remains the scene of many of the world’s disappearances. The Working Group has, for example, noted with concern the increase in the number of contemporary cases of enforced disappearances in Pakistan. The ALRC has been informed of up to several thousand alleged disappearances there in recent years. It joins with the Working Group in calling on the government to ratify the Convention and accept the competence of the Committee under articles 31 and 32. 

The same applies to Sri Lanka, which, shockingly, accounts for 80 percent of the Working Group’s present case backlog. Has the Working Group received any response from the government of Sri Lanka concerning its repeated requests for a country visit? This remains vital as disappearances continue to be perpetrated with impunity. Journalist Prageeth Ekanaliyagoda, disappeared on January 4th, 2010, but no serious investigation has since been launched. Prominent human rights defender Mr. Pattani Razeek disappeared on February 11th, 2010. Despite a suspected perpetrator, Mr. Nowsadh, having been identified, the police have failed to take any action to arrest him, allegedly due to his political connections to a government Minister. The government in its statement sppoke only of databases and death certificates, but was silent on the lack of investigations or any credible actions to hold perpetrators accountable. 

In Nepal, impunity for hundreds of cases of forced disappearance persists, with a lengthy political stalemate there preventing any credible actions by the authorities to address this problem. 

On 12 March 2011, it will be seven years since a group of policemen abducted human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit from a busy Bangkok street in Thailand. Since his disappearance, Somchai’s family has repeatedly faced obfuscation, difficulty, and threats from unnamed figures against their lives and safety. Court delays and legal loopholes have prevented those responsible from being brought to justice. The perpetrator that the Thai government has yesterday claimed is awaiting an appeal verdict is in fact conveniently missing and the appeal hearing now scheduled for March 11, 2011, is likely to be postponed for the fourth time. There are grave concerns that they will continue to enjoy impunity. That such a situation is allowed to persist in a State that holds the presidency of this Council is a dark stain on this body’s reputation. 

How does the Working Group perceive ways in which the new Convention can assist in addressing situations in which disappearances remain ongoing and impunity is deeply entrenched? The ALRC is among a group of NGOs that are organizing a side event between 3 to 5pm on Wednesday March 9th to look into these issues, to which all are cordially invited.

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