International Day of the Disappeared
The International Day of the Disappeared on August 30 is a day created to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives. The impulse for the day came from the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of Detained-Disappeared (Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, or FEDEFAM), a non-governmental organization founded in 1981 in Costa Rica as an association of local and regional groups actively working against secret imprisonment and forced disappearances in a number of Latin-American countries.
Work on secret imprisonment is an important part of the activities for a number of international bodies and organizations in the fields of human rights activism and humanitarian aid, including for example Amnesty International (AI), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The International Day of the Disappeared is an opportunity to highlight these institutions' work, increase public awareness, and to call for donations and volunteers.
Of those agencies, the ICRC has additional privileges due to its special status as a non-governmental sovereign entity and its strict policy of neutrality. In some cases, the ICRC is the only institution granted access to specific groups of prisoners, thereby enabling a minimum level of contact and inspection of their treatment. For affected families, messages transmitted by the ICRC are often the only hint about the fate of these prisoners.
Imprisonment under secret or uncertain circumstances is a grave violation of some conceptions of human rights as well as, in the case of an armed conflict, of International Humanitarian Law. The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance as resolution 47/133 on December 18, 1992. It is estimated that secret imprisonment is practiced in about 30 countries. The OHCHR Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has registered about 46,000 cases of people who disappeared under unknown circumstances.
On August 30, 2007, hundreds of Philippine relatives and supporters of desaparecidos, mostly activists, missing after being abducted or killed by Philippine security forces protested against the government to mark International Day of the Disappeared. Edita Burgos remembered her missing son, Jonas, a member of the Peasants' Movement of the Philippines.
On August 30, 2008 the International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances, which gathers family member organizations and human rights organizations from around the world, joined hands for a global campaign event to promote the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
- Missing persons and international humanitarian law, ICRC
- AFAD Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
- AFAD Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances Blog
- International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances
- OHCHR – Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
- Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance
- International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP)
- The missing – A major ICRC initiative
- FEDEFAM – Fighting Against Forced Disappearances in Latin America
- Amnesty International - Work on Enforced Disappearances
Remembering Disappeared Baluch on International Day of the Disappeared By: Faiz Baluch
The International Day of the Disappeared on August 30 is an annual commemoration day created to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives. On this day, the International community remembered the missing and disappeared people throughout the world. The day has been officially declared as the Day of the Disappeared. On that day, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) calls on all governments to provide answers to families on the fate and whereabouts of missing persons. International Human Rights Organisations have declared enforced disappearance as a grave human rights violation and a crime against humanity.
On this day, 30 August 2010, the fate of tens of thousands of innocent Baluch youth and elders remains unknown. Thousands of Baluch families in occupied Baluchistan are looking for justice for their beloveds and peace of mind for themselves in particular and for the Baluch society in general. The issue of enforced-disappearances in Baluchistan is not a new phenomenon; it started from the day when Baluchistan has been illegally occupied at gun point. Since the illegal occupation, the occupying states, Iran and Pakistan, have been committing gross human rights violations in Baluchistan. Thousands of Baluch have been forcefully disappeared and hundreds of thousands have been killed in cold-blood and massacred by aerial bombardments by these ruthless and uncivilised states. Thousands have been extra judicially executed. The ideal solution of all the problems of Baluchistan lies in the Independence of Baluchistan.
The people of Baluchistan in occupied Baluchistan are facing a dreadful situation of uncertainty and injustice. The secret agencies of Pakistani army, which is ruling the country for the last 60 years one way or the other, can pick a Baluch at any time with impunity. They do not care whether this Baluch is 80 years old elderly man or a 12 years teenager. In the list of the disappeared Baluch, many victims have included women and children also. They could be taken at any time, day or night. Their captors may be in uniform or civilian clothes. They forcibly take them away, giving no reason, producing no warrant. Their relatives desperately try to find them, going from one police station or army camp to the next. The officials deny having arrested them or knowing anything about their whereabouts or fate. The courts in that ‘God Given Country’ are helpless. A decision made by even an army subaltern carries more weight than a high court judge does.
Disappeared Baluch persons from occupied Baluchistan have been denied the right to a proper arrest and to a fair trial. There has been evidence of inhuman torture on many of the disappeared persons. Some have eventually been killed and some have been dumped away in half-dead condition in the past. However, lately a wing of Pakistani Military and Intelligence Agencies, Supah-e-Shohada-e-Baluchistan, has killed over a dozen Baluch disappeared activists in cold-blood. The “Supah” is considered as the joint “Death squad” of Pakistani Military, Para-military and the Police. It has accepted the responsibility for the killing of several Baluch disappeared activists alleging that they were promoting secularism, and spreading anti- Islam idea in Baluchistan.
One of the main effects of these enforced disappearances in Baluchistan is the grave socio-economic situation of their families. Many of the disappeared were the main bread earner for the family and their families are facing immense financial hardship.
All the well-known human rights organizations and other concerned institutions have been voicing their serious concern regarding the fate of missing persons in Pakistani Baluchistan. Internationally, Pakistan has been identified as one of the countries with high numbers of enforced disappearances unfortunately; most of these forced disappearances took place in Occupied Baluchistan. Currently more than 8000 Baluch youth/ political activists are either missing or being tortured in the Pakistan’s army secret dungeons. Even though the International Human Rights Organisations have voice concerned against enforced-disappearances, unfortunately, they have failed to pressurise the occupying states to either bring to surface or release the Baluch political activists. They have also failed to take notice or sympathise with the families of enforced disappeared Baluch who have been protesting in front of Press Clubs in Quetta, Karachi, and Islamabad and elsewhere to record their peaceful and democratic protest.
The irony is whenever the UNHCR and ICRC are in need of help they can easily find contacts to reach Baluch leaders abroad and inside Baluchistan but when the Baluch need their help they will make lame excuses such as; the government doesn’t allow us to work in Baluchistan, we do not give statement against the government because it is a political risk, and most peculiar excuse they use is that they are ready to help but the families of missing Baluch do not contact them – what a petty.! UNHCR and ICRC have offices in Quetta where the families of Baluch missing person have been sitting on protest for over years now. Why don’t these aforementioned Organisations go and visit the protest camps of Baluch families?
This inhuman behaviour of Pakistan has forced hundreds of the Baluch women and children not only to take into streets and protest against forced disappearances, torture and extra judicial killings of Baluch youth but also to set up token hunger strike camps in front of Press Clubs for the recovery of their loved ones. This is an act, which is indicative of extreme conditions and desperation of Baluch masses where women held the utmost respect and not supposed to take to street on political or social issues.
Enforced disappearance of Baluch elders and youth by Pakistani armed forces violates the rights of both the disappeared person and their relatives and the Baluch society as a whole. The clear responsibility to provide answers regarding the fate of missing persons lies with the government of Pakistan as government secret agencies and it armed forces are responsible for these enforced disappearances. Nevertheless, it is now an open secret that Pakistan has neither any respect of National and neither International human rights laws nor it has any tradition to respect value of human lives. This has been particularly obvious regarding their attitude and behaviour vis a vis the Baluch people.
The only hope left for the Baluch is the support of international community. It is the moral obligation and duty of International Human Rights Groups, International Commission on Missing Persons (ECMP), UN, EU and all freeborn people to put pressure on Pakistan regarding enforced disappearances, torture, extra judicial arrests and gross human rights violations in Baluchistan, as currently the fate of tens of thousands remains unknown. The Baluch are looking for justice and peace of mind. There will be no peace of mind for their families until their beloved who have been forcefully taken away from them are found and the perpetrators of inhuman crimes are brought to justice under International human rights law and War crimes.