Daily World News Digest, 22 September 2015

Chile earthquake left 9,000 homeless and four missing

Firstpost, Indian news organization, reported on 21 September that more than 9,000 people were left homeless after a powerful earthquake hit northern and central Chile last week, according to officials who dramatically increased previous estimates. The death toll from the 8.3 magnitude quake that struck on 16 September remained at 13, with four still missing, said Deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy. The number of people left homeless however jumped drastically from 3,500, as officials scour remote towns in the Coquimbo region, more than 260 kilometers north of Santiago, where the quake epicenter was located. The offshore earthquake was the sixth strongest in the history of geologically volatile Chile and the most powerful anywhere in the world this year, officials say. Emergency personnel backed by soldiers were still busy cleaning up the coastal city of Coquimbo, washed up by the tsunami waves that followed the quake. The tsunami crashed ashore just minutes after about one million people were evacuated from the shoreline following the quake. The human toll was far lower than in February 2010, when an 8.8-magnitude quake and tsunami left 500 people dead. http://bit.ly/1Qumaml

Activists call UNHRC to step up in releasing the detained and finding the disappeared in Syria

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) carried a story on 21 September saying that the UN Human Rights Council should step up its action towards the release of the detained and disappeared in Syria. Since the start of a conflict that has claimed the lives of at least 230,000 persons and displaced more than half of the Syrian population, the Human Rights Council has adopted no less than 17 resolutions on Syria. Over the years, the independent international Commission of Inquiry (CoI) has played an important role, putting the spotlight on the humanitarian and human rights situation in Syria. In a joint letter released prior to UNHRC session, six human rights NGOs – of which several are part of the “Free Syria’s Silenced Voices” campaign, called on the Human Rights Council to adopt an innovative approach in order to tackle this fatigue and demonstrate its relevance as the main UN body in charge of promoting and protecting human rights, by adopting a resolution focused on the fate of all those deprived of their liberty in Syria for their peaceful activism, as well as human rights defenders and others who have been detained, subjected to enforced disappearance or abducted as a result of their professional (humanitarian, medical or journalistic or other peaceful) activities, and that calls for their release.http://bit.ly/1itxOD4

Human Rights Watch accused Iraqi paramilitary forces for enforced disappearances

Middle East Eye news portal carried a story on 21 September saying that the Iraqi government must assert control over paramilitary forces that have carried out abuses including enforced disappearances and destruction of property, and hold those responsible to account, according to Human Rights Watch. Baghdad should “take immediate steps to establish effective command and control over pro-government militias (and) disband militias that resist government control,” the rights group said in a report released on Sunday. It must also ensure that Iraqi forces involved in abuses “are fairly and appropriately disciplined or prosecuted,” and provide compensation or alternative housing to people whose homes have been destroyed, HRW said. They also unlawfully detained some 200 men and boys, at least 160 of whom remain unaccounted for. Baghdad turned to mostly Shia volunteer forces and militias for support as IS advanced towards the capital in June 2014. In doing so, the government empowered Shia militias, some with chequered human rights records, and spurred the creation of new ones, allowing them to act with near-impunity despite the fact that they officially fall under government command. http://bit.ly/1Krhtbq

Human Rights Watch criticizes UNHRC for lack of efficiency in situations of serious concern

Human Rights Watch reported on 21 September that in spite of a clear mandate to prevent human rights violations, the Human Rights Council has demonstrated a clear lack of efficiency when fundamental human rights are gradually restricted. The rights’ group reflected on the situation in Russia, Egypt, China, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and especially Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been heading down an increasingly authoritarian path. Disappearances and arbitrary arrests of opposition party members, closing down critical media, and arresting and charging editors and bloggers, journalists and civil society members have become more common since the January 2014 period. Thousands of opposition members and protesters were arrested, and unknown numbers remain in custody. The authorities have failed to take sufficient steps to protect bloggers expressing atheist sentiments, leading to the brutal murders of 4 bloggers in 2015 alone. The security forces, whose extrajudicial killings and other frequent abuses have been independently documented over successive governments, continue to enjoy near total impunity. In Russia, the government continues to pursue its unprecedented crackdown on independent critics. For the fourth year in a row, parliament adopted laws and authorities engaged in repressive practices. http://bit.ly/1L1gKB9

Photojournalist remains in illegal detention, as many others in Egypt

The Cairo Post reported on 21 September that amateur photojournalist Esraa el-Taweel will remain in prison for another 15 days after the prosecution renewed her detention on Monday, according to her Lawyer Halem Hanish. Taweel, a 23-year-old student, is pending investigations over charges of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news. Her detention was previously renewed on 9 September for 15 days. Taweel has spent more than 100 days in prison after she was reported by her family to be missing for over two weeks in June along with two others; Omar Mohamed and Sohaib Saad. Mohamed and Saad were referred to military trial over terrorist-related charges and their first court hearing took place 6 September. A wave of enforced disappearance cases have recently been brought to light by rights groups on social media, where activists and people with Islamist affiliations were argued to be “illegally arrested” by security forces. In June, the Freedom for the Brave group spotted at least 163 cases in two months. Azhar Cleric Anas Sultan, who is known for his participation in 2011 revolution, was released along with his two brothers after they reportedly disappeared in May and then appeared four days later with accusations of “belonging to terrorist group, attacking public utilities and inciting against police and army.” Different human rights organizations condemned the illegal incarceration process and demanded the immediate release of detainees. http://bit.ly/1itzHQ9

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.