Daily World News Digest, 24 September 2015

Bangladesh: Continued Enforced Disappearances

The Scoop news portal from New Zealand reported on 23 September that the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), the International Federation for Human Rights FIDH, and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) gave a joint statement on Tuesday to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances at the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council, noting that between January 2009 and August 2015, human rights groups have documented at least 212 people forcibly disappeared in Bangladesh. “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,” the statement said. http://bit.ly/1WhKs6X

Awaiting “courage and leadership” from Sri Lanka

Human Rights Watch carried a commentary piece on 23 September on the release of the report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into atrocities committed during Sri Lanka’s civil war, which ended in 2009. The UN has called for “political courage and leadership” to tackle “deep-seated and institutionalized impunity,” and has argued that the only way to effectively try past abuses, including enforced disappearances, in a highly politicized environment like Sri Lanka is to integrate international judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and investigators into a hybrid court – merging domestic and overseas expertise. The article notes that the report provides some hope that the Human Rights Council might finally make it possible for victims to have access to impartial justice. It adds, however, that despite Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s “cautiously receptive” reaction, the Sri Lankan delegation at the Human Rights Council in Geneva “proposed amendment after amendment” to the draft resolution on the report, “seeking to strip away all references to implement the report’s recommendations, including international participation in a justice mechanism and ending impunity.” http://bit.ly/1Kwv5lJ

Parents of 43 missing students begin hunger strike in Mexico

AFP reported on 24 September that parents of 43 Mexican students who disappeared last year began a 43-hour hunger strike on Wednesday, a day before meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto ahead of the case’s anniversary. Families gathered in front of Mexico City’s cathedral holding signs with the pictures and names of their sons. “For 43 hours, we will only drink water and we’ll be fasting when we meet with the president,” Nardo Flores, whose son Bernardo is among the missing, told AFP. It will only be the second meeting between the parents and Pena Nieto since last year’s tragedy, which turned into the biggest crisis of his administration and caused his approval rating to dip. The Mexican leader and the families will meet on Thursday. The students, from a rural teacher training college in the southern state of Guerrero, disappeared after they were attacked by local police in the city of Iguala. http://yhoo.it/1Ly8BTG

Volkswagen ‘allowed torture’ under Brazil military rule

The BBC reported on 23 September that a group of former Volkswagen employees in Brazil has filed a civil lawsuit against Volkswagen, accusing the firm of allowing its workers to be detained and tortured under Brazil’s military rule from 1964 to 1985. Twelve former workers say they were arrested and tortured at Volkswagen’s huge factory in Sao Paulo. Volkswagen’s subsidiary in Brazil has said that it is investigating the allegations. More than 400 people were killed or disappeared between 1964 and 1985. Many others were arrested and tortured. Trade union and left-wing activists were among those targeted and a number of companies have been accused of colluding with the repression. http://bbc.in/1gPU34K

DNA match in 1970s US murder investigation solves unrelated case

Reuters carried a piece on 23 September noting that the body of a man who was murdered in San Francisco in 1979 has been identified as that of a teenager who went missing in Chicago a year earlier. The identification was made as a result of current efforts to identify victims of a serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. Andre “Andy” Drath, 16 when he disappeared, was not a victim of Gacy, Chicago’s so-called Killer Clown who murdered 33 young men in the 1970s, but his remains were identified after his half sister, Willa Wertheimer, submitted her DNA to a national registry to see if it might be a match for one of Gacy’s still-unidentified victims who were exhumed in 2011. Police had called on relatives of missing people who fit the profile of Gacy’s victims to provide DNA samples. A number of unrelated cold cases have been solved after people submitted DNA in response to the renewed investigation into the 1970s killings. http://reut.rs/1Fvvlma

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.