Ten years ago today, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD) lost its former Chairperson, Munir Said Thalib who died of arsenic poisoning while on board a Garuda Airways flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Two civilians were convicted – Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a Garuda pilot and part-time intelligence agent who served the poisoned orange juice to Munir and Indra Setiawan, the former CEO of Garuda Airlines who ordered off duty pilot Pollycarpus to board the plane and execute the plan to murder Munir. Rohainil Aini, deputy of Indra Setiawan was later on acquitted.
However, AFAD believes the real masterminds of Munir’s untimely death remain scot free.
AFAD STATEMENT FOR THE 2014 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE DISAPPEARED
Asian peoples are the most victimized by the practice of enforced disappearance over the past years. The practice is still continuing with 14 Asian states out of 21 asked to respond to 93 new cases lodged at the UN
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID), as contained in its August 4, 2014 report to the UN Human Rights Council. These Asian states are Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Urgent appeals were also sent by the UNWGEID to 16 States, eight of these from Asia (Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Iraq, Kazakhstan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Syrian Arab Republic and United Arab Emirates) concerning the whereabouts of persons who were arrested, detained or feared to have been disappeared or at risk of disappearance. Communications concerning allegations of harassments of human rights defenders and relatives of disappeared persons were also sent to 12 states, five of these are from Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand).
FOLLOW THE DESAPARECIDOS,
DEFEND DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
It was only three years ago that the United Nations declared August 30 as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance. For years, however, the families of desaparecidos across continents marked the day as the International Day of the Disappeared to pay tribute to their missing kin.
Today, as the world observes the Day of the Disappeared, FIND and AFAD celebrate the sterling lives of the desaparecidos as defenders of freedom and democracy and as catalysts of developmental change. In this light, we invite President Aquino to train his warning against pseudo-reformists not only on his critics but on himself and his cohorts in government first. In paying tribute to past and present-day heroes on August 25, National Heroes’ Day, the President cautioned against “those who only pretend at reform.”
The genuine pro-people struggles of the desaparecidos for societal change should inspire self-declared reformists within and without government to tread the oft-invoked but yet to be walked straight path. And the people must be vigilant against the resurrection of a dictatorship that stifles political dissent with unrestrained enforced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.
The long road to EDSA 1 was paved by the blood and sweat of courageous political activists, at least 878 of whom have been forcibly disappeared. These include: student activist Rizalina Ilagan, college professor Charlie del Rosario, public accountant Romeo Crismo, labor and human rights lawyer Hermon Lagman, labor leader Victor Reyes, Benedictine deacon Carlos Tayag, Redemptorist priest Rudy Romano.