Monthly Archives: October 2017

From Stockholm to Syria: Different Circumstances, Shared Experience of “Ambiguous Loss”

Muhanad Abulhusn is from the predominantly Druze city of As-Suwayda in southern Syria. He and his brother were detained incommunicado for extended periods by the Syrian regime. Ingrid Gudmundsson is a retired Mathematics teacher from Akersberga outside Stockholm. Her daughter and grand-daughter, and her former husband went missing in Thailand as a result of the December 2004 tsunami. Muhanad and Ingrid’s experiences overlap even though the circumstances in which they encountered the worldwide phenomenon of missing persons are entirely different.

This diversity of circumstances in which people go missing is reflected in ICMP’s mandate, which is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes. People whose loved ones go missing are confronted by different challenges. For example, when persons go missing in a natural disaster, relatives may suffer the “ambiguous loss”…

Daily World News Digest, 20 October 2017

UN calls on China to end detention of activists

The UN has demanded that China immediately release Christian church leader Hu Shigen and lawyers Zhou Shifeng and Xie Yang, who were detained and tried as part of an unprecedented nationwide crackdown on human rights attorneys and activists that began in July 2015. The UN’s working group on arbitrary detention said the trio were subjected to a host of rights violations, including being denied access to legal counsel, being held in “incommunicado detention” and their families “were not informed of their whereabouts for several months”. The working group comes under the UN’s human rights council, of which China is a member. China promised to cooperate with the group when it ran for a seat on the human rights council in August 2016.

Missing rights activist Punhal Sario returns home

Human rights activist and campaigner for missing persons Punhal Sario returned to…

Daily World News Digest, 19 October 2017

Political impasse over Syria’s disappeared

Tens of thousands of people are currently missing in Syria. Most households know someone who is missing, but the full scale of disappearances remains unknown. Survivors speak of overcrowded cells, starvation, medical neglect, torture and death. Families and friends of the disappeared suffer from not knowing where their loved ones are being held or whether they’re dead or alive. Amnesty International this year published a report claiming that Syrian authorities had executed between 5,000 and 13,000 detainees in Saydnaya military prison during the first five years of the conflict. The Syrian government has denied these claims, but refuses requests from the UN and human rights groups for independent monitors to inspect detention centers.

Human Rights Watch calls on China to abolish secret detention

Human Rights Watch has warned that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge in opening remarks to the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress to abolish…

EU Maintains Support for ICMP, Helps Bosnia and Herzegovina Find Missing Persons

Sarajevo, 19 October: The European Union has granted three million euros to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) 2016, for a two-year project to continue helping the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) authorities to locate and identify the estimated 7,000 persons who are still missing from the 1992-95 conflict.

Under the EU-funded project, ICMP, a treaty-based International organization headquartered in The Hague, will continue to help the authorities in BIH address the interrelated issues of unidentified remains held in BiH mortuaries and misidentifications that occurred before ICMP introduced DNA testing in 2001. ICMP will maintain Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology activities and will continue to deliver DNA matching and identification. It will also seek to ensure increased use of its Online Inquiry Center (OIC) by individuals and organizations in BiH.

“Previous EU funds have been a significant…

Daily World News Digest, 18 October 2017

Libya: Refugees and migrants held captive in deplorable conditions

UNHCR teams are working to meet the urgent needs of more than 14,500 migrants and refugees, including pregnant women and infants, who were held captive by smugglers in farms, houses and warehouses in and around the coastal city of Sabratha in Libya. Hundreds were discovered with no clothes or shoes and many had suffered gunshot wounds. Detainees have reported violence, forced labor and sexual exploitation. UNHCR staff have identified a worrying number of unaccompanied and separated children, many under the age of six. Libyan authorities estimate that an additional 6,000 migrants and refugees are still being held by smugglers.

Colombia: FARC victims demand justice

Family members of 11 politicians who were kidnapped and executed by FARC guerrillas have sent a letter to multiple government bodies rejecting the possibility that FARC leaders take seats in Congress next year before facing justice…

Daily World News Digest, 17 October 2017

Somalia: Mogadishu victims buried in mass grave

Following the truck bomb in Mogadishu, which killed more than 300 and injured another 300, more than 100 unidentified people have been buried. The victims were burned beyond recognition. While rapid burial is partly due to Islamic culture, the Somali government does not have proper mortuary facilities or the capability to carry out forensic tests to identify the victims. “The government exhausted every effort to recognize these dead bodies … but it became so difficult that it decided to bury them all together,” said one local government official.

Venezuela: former Attorney-General says she has evidence of extrajudicial killings

Venezuela’s former Attorney-General, Luisa Ortega, who was removed from her post by the country’s newly formed constituent assembly in August, said she has evidence of extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses by the government. She said that documents in her possession were sufficient…

Daily World News Digest, 16 October 2017

Mexico’s New Disappearances Law

Mexico’s Congress has enacted a General Law on Disappearances, which aims to strengthen the government’s ability to track and investigate disappearances. According to the Mexican government’s official database, at least 33,000 people have disappeared in the country since 2007. However, most cases are never properly investigated and the whereabouts of thousands of missing people is unknown. The Mexican government has reported only six federal court convictions for enforced disappearance, and many of these cases involve incidents that took place before 2007. The new General Law on Disappearances is expected to play a critical role in addressing this crisis.

Retrial of former Guatemalan leader Rios Montt begins

The genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator, General Jose Efraín Ríos Montt, has resumed behind closed doors after more than a year. The 90-year-old retired general face charges related to the killing of 1,771 Ixil Indians during his…

Daily World News Digest, 13 October 2017

Iraq seeks more help in dealing with mass graves

Iraq has asked for international assistance regarding the handling of mass graves that have been discovered since the launch of anti-Da’esh operations, citing insufficient government capabilities. According to the High Commission for Human Rights, locating the large number of mass graves that contain the remains of hundreds of victims requires exceptional efforts that exceed current government capabilities.

El Salvador urges global support in finding the disappeared

The government of El Salvador has called on international organizations to help support the work of a newly established special commission to account for thousands of people who disappeared during the 1980-1992 conflict. On 27 September, the government created a National Commission for the Search of Adults Disappeared in the Context of the Armed Conflict (CONABUSQUEDA), which is expected to start operating in 2018. About 8,000 people disappeared during the conflict, according to official…

Daily World News Digest, 12 October 2017

Pakistan: Commission on Enforced Disappearance criticized

A Pakistani parliamentary committee has concluded that the Commission on Enforced Disappearances has failed to determine the responsibility of individuals or organizations involved in enforced disappearances. While the Commission says it has accounted for more than 2,000 missing persons in the last six years, the parliamentary committee points out that there have been no recorded statements by victims, and there has been no investigation or prosecution of officials involved in enforced disappearances.

Philippines: army officer acquitted in abduction case

More than after being snatched from a mall in Quezon City, an army officer charged with the abduction has been acquitted by the Quezon City regional trial court. The verdict said the prosecution failed to produce witnesses to identify the accused, Harry Baliaga Jr, who is now an army major. In a statement, the prosecution said, “We are immeasurably frustrated that key eyewitnesses who positively…

Daily World News Digest, 11 October 2017

Finding the missing in Albania

(Albanian Daily News) Brian J. Williams, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Albania, argues that the legacy of human rights violations during the 1945-91 dictatorship in Albania has yet to be properly addressed. He highlights the need to account for the 6,000 people who disappeared during the dictatorship. The UN Human Rights Council, he notes, found that, “as remains have not been found, justice has not been rendered, and so the principle of ‘a continuous crime’ applies”. Mr. Williams cites the Albanian government’s prospective agreement with the International Commission on Missing Persons to help identify remains as a positive step towards addressing the legacy of the former regime.

Transitional justice in Syria

More than 106,000 people have been arrested or disappeared in Syria since 2011, according to Human Rights Watch; and rights groups are examining the prospects for transitional justice mechanisms…