Daily World News Digest, 31 August 2015

New Suspected Burial Site in Northern Sri Lanka

The Tamil Guardian, a UK news portal covering Sri Lanka affairs, carried a story on 29 August saying that investigations began on Friday into a covered up well in Mannar District in Northern Sri Lanka, unearthed adjacent to where a mass grave containing more than 80 bodies was found last year. The well, which is believed to contain human remains, was inspected by a judge and other local officials on Friday. On Wednesday, Justice Alexrajah had marked the site and ordered that the woods surrounding it should be cleared and cordoned off ahead of Friday’s inspection. Visiting the site on Friday, Justice Alexrajah asked the land surveyors to produce maps and ordered that the site should have a round-the-clock police guard to prevent any unauthorized access. Excavations at an adjacent site last year, found over 80 human remains. The Bishop of Mannar, who called for an international investigation into the mass grave due to the lack of credibility associated with any internal process, said that the holes in many of the skulls were believed to be from gunshot wounds. http://bit.ly/1UfoYds

More than 100,000 still missing in Spain

Prensa Latina, a Cuban news agency, carried a story on 30 August saying that Spain would observe the International Day of the Disappeared with an agenda of more than 100,000 people buried in unidentified locations as a result of the repression of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1936-1975). This period also left another trail of sensitive disappearances: more than 30,000 children were separated from their Republican parents and given to Franco supporters’ families, Prensa Latina said. According to various investigations in that period, between 130,000 and 150,000 Spaniards were executed, 300,000 were exiled and 270,000 imprisoned. However, despite the scale of the tragedy no one has been convicted for these crimes, although victims, their families and historical memory organizations demanded justice. Organizations of relatives and friends of the victims, as well as groups of historical memory have identified the bodies of 6,500 of those who were murdered, but the remaining victims are in unknown locations. In most cases, the report says, search and identification work has been performed without official backing, with financial resources obtained in campaigns to collect money. On the occasion of today’s commemoration, humanitarian organizations recalled that Spain has yet to categorize enforced disappearance as a crime and adjust its definition to the requirements of the International Convention. http://bit.ly/1Jqj6Uc

Boats capsize off Libya, killing dozens of migrants

CNN carried a story on 30 August saying that two boats carrying hundreds of migrants from various countries capsized near the Libyan city of Zuwara, killing at least 112 people. According to Mohammed Al-Misrati, spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent, at least 198 people have been rescued, while 30 to 40 others were still missing. One of the boats went down Wednesday, while a second capsized Thursday. The Red Crescent, along with the Libyan coast guard, rescued dozens of people from African countries and from Syria. Hundreds of migrants have attempted to reach Europe by land and sea. So far this year, at least 2,373 have died as of this week, the International Organization for Migration said. http://cnn.it/1ViPCyY

International Day of the Disappeared observed in Kashmir

Kashmir Watch reported on 30 August that the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) assembled in the city of Srinagar to commemorate more than 8,000 disappeared persons of Jammu and Kashmir who were subjected to enforced or involuntary disappearances since the outbreak of conflict in 1989. The APDP was also memorializing hundreds and thousands of disappeared from numerous other states of India, the report said. In the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the government has failed to investigate more than 8000 cases of enforced disappearances and more than 7000 unmarked and mass graves, the report said, adding that surviving family members, particularly half widows and half orphans, have never been provided with relief or reparations. The perpetrators of enforced disappearances have never been prosecuted. The Indian government signed the UN Convention against Disappearances in February 2007 but it was never ratified. http://bit.ly/1hpnJq1

Protesters in Pakistan call on army chief, judiciary to find missing relatives

Dawn newspaper reports today that three rallies were organized outside the Karachi Press Club on Sunday afternoon to observe International Day of the Disappeared. One of the rallies was organized by the Baloch National Movement and Baloch Rights Council, the second, which had a substantial number of participants, was organized by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), while a small number of women and children, led by a boy of about 11 years, demanded that the ‘missing’ Aafia Siddiqui be recovered. Aafia is in a US prison for the alleged attempted murder of two US soldiers. Inside the Press Club, the MQM held a press conference demanding that the authorities provide information about abducted MQM workers whose whereabouts are unknown. A sister of Nabeel Baloch, said her brother had gone missing a year ago. Studying at a government college in Lyari, she said her 24-year-old brother had nothing to do with politics. She demanded that Nabeel be presented in court if he had committed a crime. “I have filed a petition in court but so far nothing has happened.” http://bit.ly/1LETk1q

Call for Lebanon to establish National Commission on Disappearances

The Eurasia Review reported on 30 August that Human Rights Watch has called on Lebanese authorities to move forward with proposals to set-up an independent national commission to investigate the fate of people forcibly disappeared during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war and its aftermath. While Lebanon has not witnessed large numbers of enforced disappearances since the 1990s, Human Rights Watch has documented a handful of cases of Syrians who apparently were forcibly disappeared in Lebanon after the outbreak of the conflict in Syria. Lebanese authorities should investigate and prosecute those recent cases, HRW said. Despite repeated promises, Lebanese authorities have yet to provide the families of the disappeared with any answers about the fate of their loved ones. An estimated 17,000 Lebanese were kidnapped or “disappeared” during the civil war of 1975-90. In addition, scores of citizens and Palestinians “disappeared” in Lebanon after 1990 during Syria’s military presence in the country and are known or believed to have been transferred to detention in Syria. Human Rights Watch urged Lebanon to ratify the United Nations Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances as well. http://bit.ly/1hppdkg

At least 50 missing in Dominica after Tropical Storm Erika

CBC News reported on 29 August that rescue crews jumped off boats and trudged through mud, rocks and uprooted trees on Saturday to reach communities cut off by a tropical storm that killed at least 20 people and left nearly 50 missing in the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica. http://bit.ly/1Jud8nr

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.