Enforced disappearances

Enforced disappearance is a term most of us would associate with perhaps an autocratic regime or an oppressive government. It certainly cannot be conceived to be something likely to happen under a democratic administration. But it would shock the readers if they take a look at the facts and statistics of enforced disappearances that are happening right here in our country. More that 8000 people have gone missing in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 according to a report by the Srinagar-based Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). It is also routinely happening in strife-torn areas like the north-east and states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Orissa.

The people disappearing are not only people suspected of being terrorists but also innocent people killed extra-judicially or people who where kept under detention without any clear reason, or under secrecy. There have been many instances of mass graves being unearthed with nobody having any idea as to the identity of the dead people. The people who commit these crimes do so mainly on state order and so the question of accountability for these deaths and disappearances are never addressed. Lies, cover-ups, lame excuses and propagation of misleading explanations along with manipulation of facts and truth are what normally the relatives and friends of the victims have to hear.

The United Nations General Assembly, on December 21, 2006 unanimously adopted a very important and much required human rights treaty – The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The Disappearances Convention was the result of over 25 years of lobbying by States, NGOs and the families of the disappeared. It was also simultaneously adopted in the Human Rights Council. While in the past, enforced disappearances were dealt with under broader provisions in other human rights treaties; the adoption of this Convention now helped to clearly and plainly identify ‘enforced disappearance’ as a self-standing human rights violation. The Convention recognised the right of victims to know the truth regarding the circumstances and reasons of the enforced disappearance, the fate of the disappeared person, the progress and results of the investigation regarding the events that took place, and to obtain reparation for damages caused along with assurances of non-repetition.

But even with international laws in place, our State has failed to implement measures that would lead to curb such state- backed crimes. While official compensation might give the relatives of the victims some relief, it can in no way substitute full investigations and prosecution of suspected perpetrators. For this the governments of the world would have to start considering the issue seriously and bring about a transformation in not only its attitude towards power and authority but also towards rights and liberties that each individual is entitled to have.
Pronoti Baglary

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