Daily World News Digest, 23 September 2015

Mexico: Reckless investigation into Ayotzinapa disappearances exposes government cover-up

Amnesty International carried a story today saying that the Mexican authorities’ reckless handling of the investigation into the enforced disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teaching school in Iguala, Guerrero a year ago, exposes a scandalous cover-up orchestrated by the highest levels of government. It has exposed how anyone can be forcibly disappeared into thin air in the country with those in power focused on covering up the traces. Unless President Peña Nieto takes real action now he will continue to be seen around the world as an enabler of horrors,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. She continued saying that the Mexican government’s unshakable determination to convince the world that the students were killed by a drug gang and their remains burned in a dumpster is distracting from any other valuable lines of investigation. In particular, they should look into the military and law enforcement agencies’ role in the tragedy after they failed to take action despite being aware of the abuses against the students as they were taking place. Remains of one of the students, 19-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio, have been identified. Authorities have recently claimed a bone belonging to another Ayotzinapa student was found in the same bag. However, experts from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team said that the very specific DNA test run on the remains was inconclusive. http://bit.ly/1iLya8N

Activists addressed UNHRC and warned about enforced disappearances in Bangladesh

Scoop, a news portal from New Zealend, reported today that Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) addressed UN Human Rights Council in a joint oral statement. They thanked the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances for its work and call its attention to ongoing enforced disappearances in Bangladesh and the impunity and repression associated with these crimes. Between January 2009 and August 2015, human rights groups have documented at least 212 people forcibly disappeared in the country. Many witnesses have testified to law enforcement agents’ involvement in these cases, and the pattern of abductions and the profiles of victims suggest that disappearances are used by the government to silence political opponents. Efforts by victims’ families to obtain information or justice have been ignored by the police and the courts; impunity is the norm. Recent attempts by families to commemorate their disappeared loved ones have been met with intimidation and restrictions on expression and assembly. They call for the return of the disappeared to their families, and remind the Bangladeshi authorities of their responsibility to fully investigate and ensure justice for these crimes. http://bit.ly/1WhKs6X

Sri Lanka disproves UN’s estimate about 40,000 victims of war

LankaWeb news portal carried a story on 22 September saying that Justice Maxwell Paranagama, Chairman of the Sri Lankan Commission on missing persons and war crimes, has said that the death toll in the final phase of Eelam War IV was not 40,000, as claimed in the 2011 report of the Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but probably a little above 7,000. Paranagama told that while investigations by his panel could not come to any precise figure of deaths, it was “certainly not 40,000” as stated in the UN panel report. The Department of Statistics which had done a house to house survey in the conflict zone, and the reports sent out by the various foreign embassies suggest a death toll of 7,700 or thereabouts. Paranagama said the commission could not arrive at any precise figure, but we think 40,000 was certainly an overestimation. Meanwhile, some former diplomats, ministers and human rights activists have written to President Maithripala Sirisena asking him to find out why the final Paranagama report, submitted to him on 15 August, was not tabled at the on-going session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Since the Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has promised to release the Paranagama report, the petitioners asked President Sirisena to have it placed before the UNHRC, without delay. http://bit.ly/1MHe63N

Amnesty International USA requests investigation of Justice Department’s response to CIA torture

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) carried a story on 22 September saying that the organization has filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General requesting an immediate review of the conduct of Justice Department officials in response to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, including possibly misleading statements about evidence of torture. Under the CIA program, at least 119 individuals between 2002 and 2008 were subjected to unlawful detention and secret transfers to unacknowledged prisons, where torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and enforced disappearances were inflicted. US personnel have evaded accountability for these crimes under international law, and may have committed additional crimes in facilitating and perpetuating this impunity. Nine months have passed since the Senate Intelligence Committee transmitted the full Senate report to the Justice Department. “Nine months later, the Justice Department apparently still hasn’t even reviewed the Senate report,” said Naureen Shah, director of AIUSA’s Security and Human Rights Program. “The Justice Department’s failure to investigate new evidence of criminal wrongdoing sends the disturbing message that torture is acceptable.” http://bit.ly/1MHgCHl

Germany offers help for Sri Lankan probe of war atrocities

Federal News Radio reported on 22 September that Germany is ready to help Sri Lanka investigate alleged atrocities during its civil war, according to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Steinmeier made the announcement after talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Mangala Samaraweera, in Colombo. Last week, the UN human rights chief recommended that Sri Lanka set up a special hybrid court that would include foreign judges and investigators to examine the alleged atrocities, saying Sri Lanka’s own courts are not yet ready to carry out a fair judicial process. Samaraweera said then that the country wants to conduct its own investigation but would accept some outside technical support. Steinmeier said he believes “there will have to be international assistance,” but the extent should be deliberated at the UN Human Rights Council. Samaraweera said Sri Lanka has “indicated to the UN and other international partners that we always welcome international assistance.” He said the government will first hold consultations with political parties and civil society. UN report issued last Thursday said the patterns of violations strongly indicated war crimes and crimes of humanity were likely committed by both government soldiers and the Tamil Tigers. It listed indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence and child recruitment. http://bit.ly/1KMg9RX

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.