Daily World News Digest, 14 December 2015

Probe into missing Laos activist a ‘’farce’’: rights groups

The Straits Times, a daily from Singapore, reported today that an investigation into the disappearance of Laotian activist Sombath Somphone three years ago is “a farce” and has had a chilling effect on civil society, rights groups said Monday. Sombath, an award-winning campaigner for sustainable development, vanished from the streets of Vientiane after he was pulled over at a police checkpoint on the evening of 15 December, 2012. His case raised the issue of impunity for powerful state and business interests held responsible for routinely killing or “disappearing” activists across the region.  While data is scarce, rights campaigners say likely hundreds of people have vanished across Southeast Asia in the past two decades, often after coming up against local business, criminal or political interests. http://bit.ly/1J6qdBb

Lanka missing probe panel asks 1,500 people to depose

The Gulf Times, a daily from Qatar, reported on 13 December that more than 1,500 people have been asked to depose before a Sri Lankan government-appointed panel probing the disappearances of Tamils during the nearly three decades-long civil war with the LTTE. Gunadasa, the commission’s secretary, said they will sit for six days from Saturday in Nallur and Jaffna in the north. The Presidential Commission to Investigate Missing Persons headed by retired judge Maxwell Paranagama was appointed in 2013. The probe panel was mandated to probe disappearances of Tamils between 1990 to May 2009 when the war with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended. By mid-October this year, the commission received over 18,000 complaints from civilians with another 5,000 complaints from relatives of missing security forces personnel. http://bit.ly/1RMGm69

Yemen: Houthis shut groups, detain activists

Human Rights Watch issued a news on 13 December saying that Houthi authorities in Yemen have closed several dozen nongovernmental organizations and arbitrarily detained numerous activists since taking over the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. Human Rights Watch interviewed activists with four Sanaa-based organizations that the Houthis closed down in April 2015, apparently because of their links to the Islah political party, which is opposed to the Houthis. “The Houthis’ closure of organizations comes in the midst of a campaign of arrests and enforced disappearances of activists, political opposition figures and journalists,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. In April, shortly after Islah publicly endorsed the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes against the Houthis that began on 26 March, Houthi forces detained without charge, and in some cases forcibly disappeared, more than 100 Islah members, international media reported. http://bit.ly/1SWFfPB

Mexico: Attorney General found over 500 corpses in 5 Years

Telesur news portal reported on 13 December that Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office located 184 mass graves in the country between January 2010 and June 2015, corresponding to 573 bodies. Almost half of them (273 bodies) were found in the state of Guerrero, while one third of the illegal mass graves were located in the city of Iguala, also in Guerrero, where the 43 Ayotzinapa students disappeared in September 2014. In Guerrero, criminal gangs are often linked to local state officials. Human rights groups reported that as a result of the violence, over 120 mass displacements occurred between 2008 and 2010 in Mexico – a fifth of them in the state of Guerrero, and this rate significantly increased this year. http://bit.ly/1QgyrP6

Families of Kashmir’s missing persons document stories of their relatives in a calendar

The Hindustan Times carried a story on 13 December saying that on 20 January, 1990 28-year-old Abdul Hamid Badhiyari was allegedly picked up by Indian Army personnel from Srinagar. His family — wife and two children — haven’t heard of him since. This is just one of an estimated 10,000 cases of what is commonly known as “enforced disappearance” — a term that refers to people who go missing after allegedly being taken away by security personnel.  Keeping the search for them and justice alive, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) has come out with a 2016 calendar where each month has the sketch and story of one missing person. Its chairperson Parveena Ahangar said they will document the stories of 12 youth through such calendars each year.” She added that “there are between 8,000 and 10,000 cases of reported disappearances in the Valley. http://bit.ly/1RjzIVG

Items in Daily World News Digest are summaries of published reports relevant to the issue of missing persons, compiled by ICMP staff.  These items do not necessarily reflect the position of ICMP.