• Melo Acuna

Enforced disappearances hit more women

Enforced disappearance has prevailed despite COVID-19

MANILA – The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) said amid the COVID-19 pandemic they observe the International Day of the Victims of enforced Disappearances (IDD) as they sand in solidarity with families of the disappeared. AFAD said they are among those hardest hit bu the global health crisis.

AFAD said years after the United Nations’ Declaration on Enforced Disappearance and the entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CPED), the practice that violates all human rights continues worldwide.

In a statement released today, AFAD said enforced disappearance is particularly challenging to women whom they described as continuously agonizing from their inability to locate their children or husbands, mothers and wives of the disappeared face unimaginable challenge from solo-parenting compounded by stigmatization to harassment and possible reprisal or apathy from government. Women now confront graver difficulties amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

AFAD said various governments take advantage of public health emergency measures supported by repressive laws and executive issuances to curtail freedoms of movement, speech, peaceful assembly and association. They added penalties for violations of community quarantine protocols and directives are often non-compliant with principles of reasonableness, necessity and proportionality. They explained acts of torture, cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment or punishment are often exacted on the violators. Some have become victims of enforced disappearance as they are arbitrarily apprehended and detained for days, weeks or months with their families completely unaware of their whereabouts. Detained sans charges, many are denied of their right to bail.

The unnecessary detention has further increased jail congestion to as high as 600% which compounds the spread of the Corona virus among detainees and prisoners, some of whom have remained unreported and undocumented victims of enforced disappearances.

National security, digital or cybercrime, and anti-terror laws continue to hang like swords of Damocles over the heads of political activists who attempt to stage protest rallies. Fearless ones face the wrath of the police and the military by pushing through with their mass actions wearing face masks and observing social distancing. Arrests before, during and after these mobilizations are not uncommon, according to AFAD. Journalists and netizens who asset their freedom of expression specially those who criticize government’s flawed and ineffective response to the pandemic are also arrested and jailed. However, AFAD said the less fortunate are extrajudicially killed or disappeared.

The statement was signed by Chairperson Kurram Parvez and Secretary-Teneral Nilda L. Sevilla. AFAD members come from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kashmir, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, South Korea, Thailand, Timor Leste and the Philippines. It promotes truth, justice, redress, reparation and empowerment for the victims as the reconstruction of the historical memory of the disappeared towards the eradication of enforced disappearances. (Melo M. Acuña)


Bantayog ng mga Bayani, a memorial for the freedom fighters and the disappeared during the Martial Law years until recently. (Photo from bantayog.org)

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