Friday, August 31, 2007

International Day of the Disappeaered

Filipinos and Kashmiris, among others, marked the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August) with protests. In the Philippines, "The human rights group Karapatan says about 1,800 people have disappeared since the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s, nearly 200 of them over the past six years under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo" (Associated Press, "Hundreds Protest in Philippines against Abductions," 30 August 2007). In Kashmir, "Local human rights groups say an estimated 8,000-10,000 disappearances have been reported in the disputed Himalayan region in the last 18 years. Kashmir's top elected official, Ghulam Nabi Azad, recently said only 1,017 people had disappeared, although in 2003 his predecessor put the number at about 4,000" (Associated Press, "Relatives of Missing People Protest in Indian Kashmir," 30 August 2007).

From the International Committee of the Red Cross's photo collection "The Missing: the Faces of Those Left Behind" (click on the link for other photos from Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Georgia, Guatemala, Iraq, Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka, and Sudan):

The ICRC also issued a report on the disappeared: "The Missing: A Hidden Tragedy." In the report is a telling admission:
Sometimes little or nothing can be done. This is the current scenario in Iraq where, according to the roughest of estimates, hundreds of thousands of people are missing following years of strife -- including the Iran/Iraq war, the regime of Saddam Hussein and the current conflict. Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa, says “Iraq is a very special situation. Security-wise it’s the most difficult. There have been other times when we haven’t actively worked on the issue of missing persons, but never for such a prolonged period. We have to face reality -- right now, apart from supporting the legal institute with some equipment and training, it’s nearly impossible.” (p. 5)

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