Friday, August 15, 2008

SYNTHESIS AND REFLECTION: INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES AND TRUTH FINDING

SYNTHESIS AND REFLECTION

INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES AND TRUTH FINDING

ACTIVITY IN ASIA By: Rowena Legaspi

We have learned from the presentations and discussions/workshop today that Extra-Judicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances are global phenomena. It cuts across countries and borders, regardless of nationalities. Much has been said about the Philippines, which until this time crimes of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances remain unabated.

In other Asian countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Thailand and Afghanistan, enforced disappearance is also one of the major human rights violation issues. No concrete legal remedy in Asia can be done to address these phenomena. In the Philippines, the Writ of Amparo was promulgated by the Supreme Court but only as an immediate remedy for the cases of enforcedly disappeared, it does not prevent the commission of such crime nor comprehensively address enforced disappearances issues.

If no domestic Law in Asia that could address enforced disappearances, then we can only rely our hope on the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. However, we must intensify our campaign and lobbying for the Convention to be ratified by our respective countries, which is a condition necessary for the Convention to enter into force.

As Human Rights workers, we can intensify our campaign towards the ratification of the Convention by incorporating it in our advocacies, be it at the local or international level to influence policy makers, because our role is not just to inform or educate people, but we must go beyond informing, to relive the spirit of the struggle for truth and justice of our enforcedly disappeared brothers and sisters in the human rights struggle, as the families of the victims often say: “to forget is to betray.”

But we might wonder and ask, “why me? I work for peasant’s issues only, or for labor issues only, or displacement, or youth issues, or women’s issues, or fisherfolks issues, or housing issues.” As human rights workers who advocate for different issues, we cannot simply separate the enforce disappearance issues with other human rights issues as all our issues and advocacies are framed on respect for human rights and towards the promotion of social change. And enforced disappearance, this kind of human rights violation can happen to anyone of us, as victims of disappearances came from different sectors - - urban poor, labor, peasants, students, human rights workers/activists, journalists - - no one is spared. It can happen to you, to our loved ones, as it happened already to my journalist father, whose case is just one of the many unresolved cases of involuntary disappearance in the Philippines because of the impunity of the perpetrators. Hence, your advocacy is also my advocacy and everyone’s human rights advocacy is also our advocacy.

With that, I would like us to give life to the words written by the great metaphysical poet John Donne who once said:

“All mankind is one author, and is one volume, when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language, and every chapter must be so translated… No man is an island entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

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