A bill on enforced disappearances approved today by the Mexican Senate could represent a step forward in the fight to tackle the country’s human rights crisis. Now all that is needed for the bill to become law is the approval of the Chamber of Deputies.
“The definitive approval of the bill on enforced disappearances is crucial in order to begin to seriously address the nightmare which thousands of families face, searching for their loved ones in the face of serious risks and carrying out work which is the responsibility of the authorities”, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“This bill is a welcome advance, although there is room for improvement. It will come into existence within the context of a deficient search system and its implementation will require serious political commitment to grant justice, truth and reparation to the many families who have dedicated years to searching for their relatives”, said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
“Thank you [Amnesty International] for the work that you are doing. I didn't believe I can get justice in this country. I thought I'll never be free and that one day they will just lead me out and shoot me. It is so great to see my family again.” Dmytro Koroliov
Former inmates of a secret detention facility in Kharkiv, Ukraine, have been released – thanks to pressure from Amnesty and its supporters.
The release of Dmytro (pictured above with his mother Iryna Koroliova) and 12 others recently followed concerted pressure from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
In July, our teams flew to Kyiv to meet the Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoly Matios as we published a joint report, “You Don’t Exist. Arbitrary Detentions, Enforced Disappearances and Torture in Eastern Ukraine”.
By Kathy Price, Amnesty International Canada’s campaigner on Mexico
Stéphane Dion has an important opportunity to set a new course for hemispheric diplomacy when he hosts his counterparts from Mexico and the United States at the North American Foreign Ministers meeting on Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already promised a leaders’ summit to reinvigorate the Three Amigos partnership. As the foreign ministers meet to lay the groundwork, a worsening human rights crisis in Mexico must figure prominently on the agenda.
The dimensions of the crisis were made glaringly visible in September 2014, when police in the town of Iguala opened fire on buses carrying students from a rural teacher-training college. Three were killed and 43 other students were taken away, ‘disappearing’ into thin air. Their relatives and classmates have spent 16 agonizing months trying unsuccessfully to find the 43 amidst an official investigation so flawed as to provoke widespread allegations of a cover-up aimed at hiding the truth about what happened — and who was involved.
Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice yesterday overturned the conviction of retired colonel Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega for his role in crimes under international law. In 2010, Plazas Vega had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime of enforced disappearance.
Twelve people were forcibly disappeared following an assault by the security forces on the Palace of Justice in Bogotá in November 1985 after the M-19 guerrilla group had taken hostage those inside. Some 100 people died in the assault, including 11 Supreme Court judges.
The Colombian authorities must now redouble efforts to ensure that the whole truth about what happened during the assault on the Palace of Justice comes out and that all those responsible are identified and brought to justice before the ordinary civilian courts.
By Kathy Price, Mexico Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada
My heart is aching for an unforgettable mother and sister who shared their story with me during an Amnesty Canada delegation to Mexico.
I can well imagine the wrenching emotions they are feeling at this time of such traumatic importance for their family.
It was this week, six years ago - on November 10, to be precise - when the unimaginable happened. Their loved one, a young man named Héctor Rangel Ortiz started the day with laughter, teasing his mother over breakfast. Later he phoned from a business trip to say he'd been stopped by police in the city of Monclova. His family would never see him again.
“How I wish it was all a nightmare, a bad dream from which I could wake up,” Héctor’s sister Brenda posted on Facebook. “It's so painful not to know ... There are no words to describe it. Wherever you are Héctor, we send you love, light and hope.”
Amnesty International recently launched “Silenced Shadows”, a poetry competition on disappearances in Sri Lanka. Poet R Cheran, one of our competition judges, explains how literature can be a force for change.
More than 80,000 people disappeared in Sri Lanka. Many people there, including me, have relatives or friends who have disappeared in the past 30 years during the war. It is still an open wound. When a friend or relative is killed, painful as that is, at least you know their fate and you can have some closure. But if someone you love disappears, it is more cruel. You will be like a small bird trapped in a dark cage, searching for a corner where none exists. This pain is unbearable.
The major issue in Sri Lanka is the state’s brutality over the past 30 years. It is not just an ethnic chauvinist state, but one that is very willing to kill thousands of people or "disappear" them without hesitation. The state is the source of human rights violations. And when it comes to literature and fine arts, like many states in the world, it is illiterate.
The use of enforced disappearance by governments to silence its critics and instil fear into targeted groups continues unabated in every region of the world, said Amnesty International as the world marks the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August.
Over the past five decades the organization has worked on the cases of more than 500 individuals who have been subjected to enforced disappearance, and is continuing to pressure governments to determine the fate and whereabouts of all those who have been disappeared.
“Governments in every region of the world, from Syria to Mexico and from Sri Lanka to Gambia may be holding hundreds or even thousands in secret detention. In many countries, the authorities continue harassing and intimidating those who are looking for their relatives. The struggle for justice must not cease,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
Posted at 0001hrs GMT 5 August 2015
Rampant abductions by armed groups have become a part of daily life in Libya, said Amnesty International as it launched a campaign digest, ‘Vanished off the face of the earth’: Abducted civilians in Libya, calling for an end to an epidemic of kidnapping blighting the country.
More than 600 people have gone missing since last year according to the Libyan Red Crescent Society (LRCS), and the fate and whereabouts of at least 378 remain unknown, though the real numbers are likely to be much higher.
“Civilians in Libya are living on a knife edge. Widespread lawlessness and chaos have been exacerbated by routine abductions, as armed groups tighten their stranglehold on the country,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
The latest confirmation that Mexican authorities have unearthed scores of mass graves in recent months during the search for 43 disappeared students underscores the enormity of the crisis of enforced disappearances faced in the country, Amnesty International said today.
Reveal Whereabouts of People Arrested After December Coup Attempt
(Dakar) – Gambian authorities have detained incommunicado, depriving them of all contact with the outside world, dozens of friends and relatives of people accused of involvement in a coup attempt since January 2015, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today. Those detained include women, elderly people, and a child, and many are believed to be in ill-health.
The government has refused to acknowledge the whereabouts or even the detention of many of them, effectively holding them outside of the protection of the law. This amounts to enforced disappearance, a serious violation of international law. The Gambian government should urgently reveal their whereabouts and either charge them with a recognizable offense if there is sufficient evidence or immediately release them.
By Kathy Price, Mexico Campaigner
The photos arrived in a steady stream on my Facebook feed, a flood of images too numerous to include here - impossible to ignore. From the wide boulevards of Mexico’s capital to the streets of small towns across the country, women and men, young and old, thousands and thousands of them, marched in protest, united in their outrage about what was done in Guerrero State.
The failure of the Nepali authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the disappearance of five men more than a decade ago is symptomatic of their wilful inaction in such cases, Amnesty International said ahead of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August.
More than 1,300 people are thought to have disappeared during the armed conflict in Nepal between 1996 and 2006. To date, not a single person suspected of criminal responsibility for serious human rights violations or crimes under international law committed during the conflict has been brought to justice in a criminal court.
“The Nepali authorities need to end the excuses and instead deliver justice for the victims and families of the disappeared,” said Richard Bennett, Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International.
Every year on the International Day of the Disappeared victims’ families in Nepal gather to demand that Nepal’s government reveal the fate and whereabouts of victims of enforced disappearance and prosecute those suspected of committing them.
Posted at 0001 GMT 29 August 2014
Enforced disappearances in Syria are continuing more than half a year after the UN demanded that Syria put an end to this abhorrent practice, Amnesty International said ahead of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August.
“People in Syria are hauled off into the abyss of secret detention on a regular basis, providing clear evidence of the authorities’ systematic use of enforced disappearance as a tool to crush dissent,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
“Despite the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution in February demanding an end to enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses, countless perceived opponents of the Syrian government – including activists, journalists, medics and lawyers – are routinely plucked off the streets or seized from their homes only to disappear into virtual black holes.”
Damning testimonies gathered by Amnesty International reveal that Nigerian security forces failed to act on advance warnings about Boko Haram’s armed raid on the state-run boarding school in Chibok which led to the abduction of more than 240 schoolgirls on 14-15 April.
After independently verifying information based on multiple interviews with credible sources, the organization today revealed that the Nigerian security forces had more than four hours of advance warning about the attack but did not do enough to stop it.