The right to the truth or "the right to know the truth" is now widely recognized under international law as an indispensable aspect of justice. In case of enforced disappearance, this means the right of the victims’ families to know the circumstances of the disappearance of their loved ones, the progress and results of any investigations, establishing with certainty the fate and whereabouts of the victims, and the identity of those responsible. Establishing the truth is therefore a necessary step towards ending impunity.
While the search for truth is a requisite for justice, all victims of human rights violations should be treated with humanity and respect for their dignity regardless of whether the perpetrators of such transgressions are identified, apprehended, prosecuted, or convicted. It is the duty of the state to undertake appropriate measures to provide them with adequate, effective and prompt reparation as a humanitarian act of redressing violations committed against them.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) congratulates our colleagues and friends from the Komisi Untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan or The Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence (KontraS) on their organization’s fourteenth anniversary.
As one of the most active member-organizations of our federation, KontraS is committed to the work for human rights. Fourteen years in its struggle for human rights, KontraS has withstood the tests of time – overcoming the consequences of the series of raids in 2002 and 2003 and worse still, witnessing the brutality of the assassination of its founder, Munir. Such commitment is one of AFAD’s sources of strength for our regional federation.
Although Spain’s Amnesty Law of 1977 seems to be a protective blanket of General Franco’s surviving supporters of his regime, it only provides for an amnesty for political crimes – and the crimes under international law committed in Spain in the past do not amount to political crimes. The Spanish Magistrate Baltasar Garzón did comply with the obligations of Spain under international law when he decided to investigate and prosecute the former Chilean head of state, Augusto Pinochet in October 1998.
The investigation initiated by Judge Garzón on the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the Civil War by both parties to the conflict and the Franco regime is righteous because this is an attempt to correct a historical blunder. There are no wounds to open as opposed to some claims because the wounds of the families of the victims of human rights violations and enforced disappearances are still open and are in fact, festering- even after 41 years since the death of Francisco Franco. Two years after his death, the Government of Spain passed the Amnesty Law – though it ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights few months before that.
Enforced Disappearance in Thailand must end Now!
Eight years have passed but truth and justice for the disappeared prominent Thai human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelaphaijit still remain very elusive. Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit was forcibly disappeared on 12 March 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand. At the time of his disappearance, Mr. Somchai was working on torture cases committed by Thai security officers in the southern province of Thailand, which was then placed under martial law.
Despite efforts of Atty. Neelaphaijit’s family to bring his case at the national and international attention and to put those responsible to the bar of justice, only one of the five police officers who were arrested and prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the disappearance was convicted to a three-year imprisonment in January 2006. What added insult to injury was the verdict of Appeal Court on 11 March 2011, which suddenly reversed the decision of the Court of First Instance for lack of sufficient evidence and ruled that the wife and children of Somchai Neelaphaijit are not eligible to exercise their rights as the aggrieved party. This decision is nothing but a denial of his family’s right to uncover the truth and to seek justice.