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RP has high number of 'disappeared' - HK group

August 30, 2007 8:07am
The Philippines ranks among the top eight countries in Asia where forced disappearances of activists are not just rampant but are done with impunity, according to a human rights watchdog.

Asian human rights activists lamented this on the eve of the International Day of the Disappeared, as they sought international pressure on the governments concerned for appropriate action.

"In many countries of Asia forced disappearances have taken place in the recent past or are taking place at present with impunity. While Sri Lanka heads the list in such infamous acts there are many other countries that also have a very high number of forced disappearances," they said in a statement on the eve of the International Day of the Disappeared, which was posted on the website of the Asian Human Rights Commission ( Wednesday night.

The activists, who took part in the recent Human Rights School Session of the AHRC for 2007, also called for stronger pressure from the international community against such disappearances.

"It can also be said that international action to stop forced disappearances in the Asian region has not been adequate and that such action can even be characterized as far too casual, trivial and random. The international discourse on disappearances in many countries of the world needs to be sharpened. Certainly it needs to be sharpened with regard to forced disappearances in the Asian region. There is a moral legitimacy to expect that the United Nations human rights agencies will play a more active role in preventing disappearances and to prosecute the perpetrators in the region," they said.

The AHRC said the other countries where forced disappearances take place with impunity include Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Philippines and parts of India.

In these countries, it said, forced disappearances take place in very large scale and "the state has not taken any significant action either to bring the perpetrators to justice or to stop the practice."

Worse, the human rights activists said the state is "directly or indirectly acting to encourage such practices and actions."

"Civil society, including those of the families of the disappeared and their representatives are seriously obstructed by various forms of intimidation including threats to life and property," they said.

The activists said the Asian experience shows forced disappearances are accompanied with legitimizing of summary killings of those the state consider to be its mortal enemies.

High propaganda activities justifying summary disposal of those considered to be enemies of the state precedes, accompanies and follows forced disappearances, they added.

"The states in several countries more frequently claim the right to deal with certain categories of persons outside the process of justice. Complaints on forced disappearances seldom lead to serious investigations," they lamented.

The group of 25 human rights activists and defenders came from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Thailand.

They gathered for the Human Rights School Session of the Asian Human Rights Commission for 2007.

Among their findings was that those who engage in the causing of forced disappearances will do so only if they know they will not be subjected to serious investigations.

Another finding was that prosecutors in many countries are complicit in preventing action against disappearances.

"The prosecutors often try to stop proper prosecutions even in cases where evidence is available to pinpoint the perpetrators. Delayed prosecutions and often handling of such prosecutions in a careless manner leads to acquittals," they said. - GMANews.TV
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