Daily World News Digest, 5 October 2015

Mexico’s government to introduce a law on enforced disappearances

Telesur news portal reported on 4 October that a new bill, drafted by Mexican authorities, together with human rights groups, victims and experts, could impose up to 100 years in jail for the crime of forced disappearance, according to the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. People who collaborate in the crime could face prison sentences from 40 to 90 years. The proposed law would also create a specialized unit for disappearances and a unified database to keep track of the number of disappeared people throughout the country. According to the draft bill, there would be no statute of limitations for the crime of forced disappearance, and state officials could be sanctioned for attempting to block investigations. It also bans officials suspected of links to the case from participating in the investigations. http://bit.ly/1OexRP8

Italian lab battles ‘not to lose the dead’ from migrant ships

The New York Times carried a story on 2 October saying that so far this year, almost 2,900 migrants have drowned making the crossing to Europe from North Africa. Very often, they are the nameless victims of one of this young century’s greatest tidal movements of people fleeing war and poverty — dying in anonymity, far from home, their loved ones left in limbo about their fates, and the authorities uncertain of exactly who they are. Since the spring of 2014, however, Labanof laboratory at the University of Milan has been working to give a name to those hundreds of unidentified migrants who drowned at sea in the Lampedusa wreck and others. “Our battle is not to lose the dead,” said Dr. Cristina Cattaneo, a forensic pathologist, who runs the Labanof, the laboratory that has been building a databank to help identify the scores of victims of some of the worst migrant shipwrecks off Italy in recent years. Even now, two years after the sinking, nearly 200 victims of the Lampedusa wreck have not been officially identified. “The more decomposed they are the more difficult it is to identify them,” Dr. Cattaneo said. Fearful of European regulations that force migrants to ask for asylum in the first country in which they land, many migrants do not carry any ID, making identification even harder. Another challenge has been reaching the families of the victims, many of whom live in war-torn or repressive countries, or in places where medical records are difficult to retrieve. http://nyti.ms/1jG8gmS 

Guatemalan landslide causes 131 deaths while 300 go missing

The BBC reported today that hopes are fading in Guatemala of finding more survivors following a landslide that has killed at least 131 people and left 300 missing. Rescuers have dug for days in the village of Cambray near the capital, but say some of the homes they have reached are filled with water. Tons of rain-sodden soil slid off a mountain on Thursday, burying houses. Bulldozers were used to speed up the work but no survivor had been found over the weekend. Rescuer reported that the smell of rotting bodies was spreading across the mound of earth that had buried the village. About 30 people have been rescued. Burials began to take place of those brought out of the disaster zone over the weekend. Although Guatemala has had larger landslides, they have been in rural areas with far fewer victims. http://bbc.in/1Z2wesX

Call for investigation into unsolved crimes from Spain’s dictatorship

The Local news portal in Spain reported on 3 October that victims of Spain’s former dictatorship and their families on Saturday launched a campaign for a “truth commission” to shed light on unsolved crimes of the period. The Platform for a Truth Commission called on political parties ahead of Spain’s general election on 20 December to commit to investigating disappearances during the 1939-1975 regime of Francisco Franco. UN experts have urged Spain to break a decades-long taboo by investigating alleged crimes of the 1936-39 civil war and the Franco dictatorship that followed. The movement’s spokesman Jordi Gordon said that the aim is to “set up a parliamentary truth commission to recognize the victims of Franco and establish the facts”. With the 40th anniversary of his death looming on 20 November, Franco remains a divisive figure in Spain. During the transition to democracy after his death in 1975, Spanish leaders agreed an amnesty for the crimes of the past four decades so that the country could move forward. But critics say the atrocities were too serious to be covered by an amnesty. The platform estimates there are at least 150,000 unsolved “disappearances” and some 2,380 mass graves that have never been exhumed, Gordon said. It also demands an official investigation into how babies were taken away from their mothers during the dictatorship. http://bit.ly/1iUzrda 

Zimbabwean party reburies 1980s victims

Bulawayo 24 News, a Zimbabwean news portal, carried a story on 3 October saying that the MTHWAKAZI Republic Party (MRP) insists that it is going to continue with its program of reburying victims of the Gukurahundi massacres that occurred during the 1980s, committed by the 5th Brigade mostly against Ndebele community. MRP president Mqondisi Moyo told Radio Dialogue they are helping families of people who were killed during the Gukurahundi atrocities to bury them, as some still lay in shallow and mass graves.  Moyo said families could find peace if their members are given respectable burials. Moyo said they would also hold memorials in remembrance of an estimated 20,000 largely Ndebele speaking people who perished in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the 1980s. http://bit.ly/1NczPkx

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.