Daily World News Digest, 7 October 2015

Migrant crisis: EU to begin seizing smugglers’ boats

The BBC reported today that the EU is beginning a new operation in the southern Mediterranean to intercept boats smuggling migrants. Under Operation Sophia, naval vessels will be able to board, search, seize and divert vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling. Until now, the EU has focused on surveillance and rescue operations. So far this year, more than 130,000 migrants and refugees have crossed to Europe from the North African coast. More than 2,700 have drowned. EU’s warships will have to stick to international waters – meaning that they will have to stay 12 nautical miles away from the Libyan coast, from which up to 20 migrant ships set sail a day. The EU eventually hopes to move to a more aggressive phase of its operation – by operating within Libya’s own territorial waters. But this will only be possible with the approval of either the UN Security Council or Libya itself. The migrant crisis is expected to be one of the issues raised when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande make a rare joint address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday. http://bbc.in/1OXkDYK

Human rights organizations issue a joint statement urging the release of Syrian human rights activist

Human Rights Watch issued a news on 6 October saying that on the third anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Syrian human rights lawyer Khalil Ma’touq and his assistant and friend Mohamed Zaza, many human rights organizations are reiterating their call for the two men’s immediate and unconditional release. The two men are believed to have been arrested on 2 October 2012 at one of the various government-operated checkpoints in route from Ma’touq’s home in the Damascus suburb of Sahnaya to his office in Damascus. Requests for information made to the public prosecutor in Damascus by his family and colleagues in 2012 and 2013 only led to the Syrian authorities denying the arrest of the men. Since then their families and friends have not received any information from the authorities about their whereabouts. Released detainees have, on the other hand, informed Ma’touq’s family that they spotted him in various government-operated detention facilities. Although it is not clear exactly why the men were arrested, their enforced disappearance is likely related to Ma’touq’s work as a human rights lawyer specialized in the defense of political prisoners. Torture and other ill-treatment is rife in detention centers operated by the Syrian security forces despite calls by the international community to end such practices. http://bit.ly/1jNviZ9

Digging up the bodies: Brazil’s long path to justice after military rule

Al Jazeera America carried a story today saying that in the stonewashed villages dotting the banks of the Araguaia River, which skirts the eastern edge of the Amazon rain forest, outsiders are treated with caution. In this remote corner of Brazil, a ferocious civil war raged more than 40 years ago between a small band of idealistic young guerrillas and a belligerent military dictatorship set on annihilating them. Locals recall thousands of soldiers, undercover spies and summary executions. They remember being interrogated, tortured and having their homes burned down. For many, the war has not faded as justice was not done, and many of the rebels were never found. However, in January federal charges were filed against two former army officers, Lício Maciel and Sebastião Curió Rodrigues de Moura, who are accused of leading the merciless assault against the rebels in the dense rain forest of Araguaia. It was a triumph for the families who have battled for 35 years to force Brazil to investigate the disappearances of their relatives during the 1972-1974 war. In 2011, a federal task force took over work started by the families to locate the bodies of the missing rebels. The National Truth Commission, convened by President Rousseff, condemned the abuses of the military and a federal amnesty commission has begun to provide recompense to some of the peasants victimized by the violence. However, the investigation is impeded by the amnesty law enacted by the dictatorship that exempts political crimes from criminal investigations. http://bit.ly/1jNwZG9

Kashmir families still search their missing relatives, 10 years after the quake

Samaa, a news portal from Pakistan, carried a story today saying that the morning the Pakistan earthquake struck ten years ago, Nazish Naz had been reluctant to go to school. Less than an hour after the 16-year-old left home, disaster struck. The 7.6 magnitude quake near the city of Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir killed more than 73,000 people, but a decade on the region has yet to recover. Naz’s family remains unable to accept her death. Other than a lone photograph showing her injured in a hospital, which appeared in a newspaper shortly after the disaster, there has been no trace of her. She has simply vanished. Her family are among hundreds of relatives struggling to trace loved ones lost in the earthquake, as all records of whether they survived were destroyed in the chaotic aftermath. Naz’s family says her injury was not fatal. They added that there is no clue about her existence, but there is no proof of her death as well. The International Committee of the Red Cross says a total of 576 people were registered as missing after the earthquake but authorities failed to maintain proper records tracking where patients were sent and whether victims lived or died in the wake of the disaster. Nearly 350 were traced later on, but 228 people, including Naz, were never found. Shazia Haris, Spokeswoman for the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA), says the government no longer considers them missing, but dead. http://bit.ly/1jNw5JK

Conservative Canadian leader Harper resisting inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women 

Toronto Sun reported on 6 October that conservative leader Stephen Harper isn’t budging on his refusal to hold a federal inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, framing the issue as a law-and-order problem and noting police have solved most of the crimes. Advocates for an inquiry swiftly criticized Harper for taking an overly narrow view of violence against aboriginal women and girls that ignores complex underlying causes. It’s time to move past “simplistic explanations,” such as attributing the phenomenon to domestic violence, said Craig Benjamin, campaigner for the human rights of indigenous peoples at Amnesty International Canada. During an election campaign stop in Whitby, Ontario, Harper said it is “way past the time” for studying the subject because there have been some 40 examinations already. Instead, a re-elected Conservative government would press ahead with efforts to prevent violence against aboriginal women and ensure appropriate penalties are in place for abusers. Overall, the police review — drawing on data stretching back to 1980 — identified 1,181 police-recorded incidents of aboriginal female homicides and unresolved missing aboriginal females — 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims. http://bit.ly/1VD9eS3

Bosnia: A European tinderbox just waiting for a spark

Fortune magazine published a story about Bosnia on 6 October which, among other things, highlights the work of ICMP. Srebrenica survivor Muhamed Durakovic claims his pessimism about the nation’s economic future is well-placed and widely held. He echoes others’ indictment of Bosniak, Serb, and Croat leaders for financing and favoring loyalists regardless of an investment’s integrity, all at the expense of “actual development.” Durakovic is wistful about his home in Srebrenica, where “hope for the future is really lost…there are very few sustainable projects.” In a bitter twist, the only consistent growth industry in Bosnia relates to the search for those lost to the war. Durakovic uses his forensics expertise with conflict-torn Libya as the Tripoli director of the Balkan-based International Commission on Missing Persons. Bosnia’s own search for skeletal parts and other clues is made more difficult by its ethnic rivalries. “There is more hatred in 2015 Bosnia than there was in 1995” as politicians prey on ethnic divides to preserve their own power, Durakovic asserts.“ http://for.tn/1MYEOSM

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.