Day of the Disappeared

Amnesty International is calling for the ratification of the enforced disappearance convention today, August 30, on the 26th International Day of the Disappeared.

As Amnesty explains:

An enforced disappearance takes place when a person is arrested, detained or abducted by the state or agents acting for the state, who then deny that the person is being held or conceal their whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law.

Very often, people who have disappeared are never released and their fate remains unknown. Their families and friends may never find out what has happened to them.

In one tells of several disappearances:

Rosendo Radilla was 60 when he was forcibly disappeared in August 1974. A social activist and former mayor of Atoyac municipality, Guerrero state, Mexico, he was last seen in a military barracks, days after he was detained at a roadblock. Fellow detainees reported that he had been tortured.

To this day the Mexican government has refused to tell what happened to Rosendo Radilla, so his family has taken his case to the Inter-American Court of Human rights, where they hope to have a ruling forcing the Mexican government to tell them the truth.

“People ask ‘why don’t you forgive?'”, says Rosendo Radilla’s daughter Tita Radilla Martinez. “Because they don’t tell me what they did to my father. Is he dead or alive? I don’t know. I remember he would often feel cold. When he was detained I thought about that. Is he cold, hungry or thirsty? Is he in pain? How is he? We’ve spent our whole life like this. They say ‘Don’t reopen the wound’. ‘Reopen’? The wound is open, it never healed.”

Sometimes enforced disappearances occur on both sides of a conflict:

More than 3,000 ethnic Albanians were the victims of enforced disappearances during the armed conflict in Kosovo in 1999. These were at the hands of the Serbian police, paramilitary and military forces. More than 800 Serbs, Roma and others were abducted by armed ethnic Albanian groups. Some 1,900 families in Kosovo and Serbia are still waiting to find out what happened to their relatives.

Certain types of conflict are more prone to disappearances:

Enforced disappearances often take place in connection with counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism operations. Chechnya, which tried to secede from the Russian Federation in 1991, has since been ravaged by two armed conflicts and a counter-terror operation. Both Russian federal forces and Chechen law enforcement officials have been implicated in enforced disappearances, which run into the thousands.

A short on disappearances in Chechnya by Witness:

Of course, the mothers protesting by holding pictures of their children reminds me of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, who held vigils for over 30 years demanding to know what had become of their children and grandchildren.

As Amnesty notes “families and friends of those who disappear are left in an anguish of uncertainty, unable to grieve and go on with their lives.”

Amnesty International is calling for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006. “Once entered into force, the Convention will be an effective way to help prevent enforced disappearances, establish the truth about this crime, punish the perpetrators and provide reparations to the victims and their families.”

Amnesty has an online action you can take to help get the last 7 ratifications needed for the Enforced Disappearance convention to take force. They are focusing their current campaign on 10 countries “Burundi, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Paraguay, Portugal, Serbia, and Timor Leste.”

Take action now!


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