Daily World News Digest, 4 April 2017

Colombia declares emergency as first Mocoa landslide victims buried

The BBC reports today on the Colombian government’s response to Saturday’s mudslides in the south of the country that left hundreds dead and missing in the town of Mocoa. President Juan Manuel Santos has declared an “economic, social and ecological emergency” and committed $13.9 million towards “addressing humanitarian priorities”. Ercy Lopez, 39, who survived by hanging on to a tree, said people were still searching for her daughter Diana Vanesa, 22, but told AFP: “The hopes of finding her alive are slim now.” On Sunday, Colombia’s Farc rebel group offered to help rebuild the town, but their involvement has yet to be approved by the government. “Assistance hasn’t yet arrived, it’s just beginning to now,” a local priest told Colombian television. “We understand that neither the regional nor the municipal authorities were prepared for this catastrophe so we’re doing what we can.” http://bbc.in/2nyKgUi

Trump backs Sisi as he seeks to “reboot” US-Egypt ties

The BBC reported yesterday on the visit by Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to Washington, noting that the Egyptian regime has been widely criticized for human rights violations, including the systematic use of enforced disappearances against groups and individuals deemed to be opponents of the government. US President Donald Trump said he was “very much behind” Mr Sisi, whose crackdown on dissent was criticized by the Obama administration. US officials have said Mr Trump is seeking to “reboot” the countries’ bilateral relationship at the talks. Human Rights Watch says tens of thousands of people have been arrested in a crackdown on dissent, and that security forces have committed flagrant abuses, including torture, enforced disappearances and likely extrajudicial executions. http://bbc.in/2nUr7zT

Sri Lanka: victims of disappearance cannot wait any longer for justice

On 3 April, Amnesty International issued a statement urging Sri Lanka to address its “cruel history of enforced disappearance”. An Amnesty report published yesterday, “Only Justice can heal our wounds”, tells the story of relatives, many of them women, who have spent years searching for truth and justice. “Obstructed at every turn, they have been misled about the whereabouts or fate of their disappeared relatives, subjected to threats, smears and intimidation, and suffered the indignity of delayed trials and a stalled truth and justice processes.” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, noted that “there is no community in Sri Lanka that remains untouched by the trauma of enforced disappearance. Most people in the country suffer the absence of a loved one or know someone who does. They have waited years, and in some cases, decades, to learn of the fate of their relatives. Until justice is delivered to these victims, the country cannot begin to heal, let alone move towards a more promising future.” http://bit.ly/2oDUi8L

20 women and children killed by IS found south of Mosul

Iraqi News reported yesterday that 20 bodies of women and children, executed by Da’esh, have been found in the south of Nineveh province, according to a medical source. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said “some bodies are decayed. They were buried at the same places, where they were executed by the militants.” http://bit.ly/2nvNcRF

Yemen: militias accused of running “480 secret prisons”

Arab News reports today that Houthi militias and supporters of Yemen’s ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh “have established about 480 secret prisons to detain and hide prisoners across Yemeni governorates under their control”, according to a recent report by the National Committee for Human Rights in Yemen. The report says that several government and private buildings have been turned into secret prisons by militias, including 227 government buildings, 27 medical institutions, 49 universities, 99 schools, 25 sports clubs, 47 judicial buildings and 10 private houses. There were 16,804 cases of arbitrary arrest, torture and enforced disappearances committed by Houthi militias and ousted Saleh forces, all of which involved civilians, according to the report. http://bit.ly/2oE0cGD

Pakistan Human Rights Commission calls for government action

Dawn Newspaper reported on 3 April that the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged the government and the judiciary to protect citizens’ rights. In a statement issued at the conclusion of its council and annual general meetings on Sunday, the HRCP expressed deep concern over “the increasing security-centric nature of the state” which, it said, was leading to multiple human rights violations. “Cases of enforced disappearance pending with the government-constituted commission of inquiry do not seem to be going anywhere. The commission seems helpless and ineffective in either locating and freeing victims of disappearance or ending absolute impunity for the perpetrators. Many cases of disappearance are even now not reported to it for want of confidence in it. The HRCP strongly urges the government to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and also sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).” http://bit.ly/2nyW353

Kenya probes ‘cold-blooded’ police killing

On 2 April, News24, a news portal from South Africa, reported that Kenya’s police chief, Inspector General Joseph Boinnet, on Saturday ordered an investigation after a video circulated on social media showing a police officer killing a disarmed man in front of a crowd of onlookers in Nairobi. The incident has again raised concerns about police abuse in Kenya and outrage at the apparent “brazen execution of two young men”, said the Law Society of Kenya. “The scene is chilling and a frightening reminder that there are elements of the security forces who murder Kenyan citizens without hesitation and in violation of all laws,” said Isaac Okero, the society’s president. The Kenyan lawyers’ group called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the officers shown in the video, denouncing what it called “the culture of extrajudicial executions that is now so evidently entrenched in the national police service.” A Human Rights Watch report last July documented “enforced disappearances” and “extrajudicial killings” of men suspected of links to Islamist extremists by security forces in the country’s northeast. http://bit.ly/2n6lBvb

The Desperate Journey of a Trafficked Girl

On 3 April the Pulitzer Center published a long article from the New Yorker describing the experience of migrants seeking to reach Europe via Libya in the hands of people traffickers. The article begins by describing a midnight departure from the coast just a few miles west of Tripoli. “At the water’s edge, armed Libyan smugglers pumped air into thirty-foot rubber dinghies. Some three thousand refugees and migrants, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, silent and barefoot, stood nearby in rows of ten. The Libyans ordered male migrants to carry the inflated boats into the water, thirty on each side. They waded in and held the boats steady as a smuggler directed other migrants to board, packing them as tightly as possible. People in the center would suffer chemical burns if the fuel leaked and mixed with water. Those straddling the sides could easily fall into the sea. Officially, at least five thousand and ninety-eight migrants died in the Mediterranean last year, but Libya’s coastline is more than a thousand miles long, and nobody knows how many boats sink without ever being seen.” http://bit.ly/2owANBN

A dangerous train ride for child migrants to the US

The Boston Review published an in-depth feature on 31 March examining the experience of child migrants who travel across Mexico on freight trains. Asked what countries they passed through, almost all the migrants interviewed at a center in New York answered Mexico, and some also listed Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Asked how they traveled, most said, “I came on La Bestia,” which literally means “the beast,” and refers to the freight trains that cross Mexico, on top of which as many as half a million Central American migrants ride annually. Migrants have to ride atop the rail­ cars or in the recesses between them. Thousands have died or been gravely injured aboard La Bestia, either because of the frequent derailments of the old freight trains or because people fall off during the night. The most minor oversight can be fatal. And when the train itself is not the threat, it is the smugglers, thieves, policemen, or soldiers who frequently threaten, blackmail, or attack the people on board. http://bit.ly/2o4vwR8

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.