Daily World News Digest, 8 October 2015

Human rights abuses and impunity continue in the Philippines

InterAksyon, a news portal from the Philippines, carried a story saying that “a manifestation of the deeply-seated culture of impunity” is present in the country, after the Department of National Defense (DND) said only a single soldier has been convicted in 97 human rights abuse cases filed since 2001. In a letter to Terry Ridon, a representative of the youth party list (Kabataan party list), Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin reported that out of 57 soldiers accused of extrajudicial killings only one has been convicted. In 27 cases of enforced disappearances, 17 are under investigation, only one case is on trial, one soldier was formally charged, four cases have been archived, and four soldiers found innocent. Ridon said that this only shows that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is virtually protected from the claws of Philippine law. This is the very reason of the AFP’s confidence in committing rights violations; they know that they will not be accountable for their heinous crimes. “In the Philippines, having a military badge is equivalent to a free pass on the commission of crimes,” he stressed, noting that the DND figures are in sharp contrast with statistics on human rights violation. http://bit.ly/1N15qTb

Missing persons advert raises a lot of attention in Pakistan

Gulf News reported on 7 October that authorities promised to investigate an advertisement, published in local newspapers, regarding missing people who were allegedly picked up by “unknown Rangers”. Controversy erupted on Tuesday after the advertisement appeared in several newspapers, appealing to the public to let the police know the whereabouts of at least six missing persons who were “picked up by unknown Rangers officials”. The pictures of the missing people were published claiming that they were detained on different days and time but were all residents of Orangi Town, a congested heterogeneous slum in western Karachi. Syed Qaim Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh province said the advertisements were a bid to create rift between the police and the Rangers, a paramilitary force under direct control of the Ministry of the Interior. “Both the forces are doing plausible work in combating crimes and maintaining law and order,” Shah told. Several groups and parties accuse law enforcement agencies of illegally arresting their workers and activists and their arrest is not shown on the record. Dozens of cases have been pending in the Sindh High Court, appealing the recovery of such missing people. http://bit.ly/1Mgp3bi

Thousands of people have gone missing in Mexico, and the world is finally noticing

Quartz news portal carried a story on 7 October saying that since the abduction of 43 students in the Mexican state of Guerrero last year, a procession of international observers has been scrutinizing the state of human rights in Mexico. After a recent, five-day fact-finding trip to the country, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called the situation on the ground a “serious human rights crisis.” The latest watchdog to touch down in Mexico is the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who over three days starting 5 October met with a variety of Mexican officials, including President Enrique Peña Nieto, as well as human rights groups and victims’ relatives. On the last day of his visit he said the case of the missing 43 students is a microcosm of the situation in Mexico, and called the government’s failure to clear up thousands of disappearances deplorable and tragic. Because of the Ayotzinapa case, more than 100 bodies have been unearthed by relatives of the missing students in the outskirts of Iguala, the city where they were taken, according to a preliminary report from the Inter-American commission. The search for the missing students is exposing the plight of some 26,000 other people who make up Mexico’s disappeared. In their assessments of Mexico’s record, UN officials and IACHR commended the government for reforming laws and creating new ones to ensure human rights are respected. http://bit.ly/1L8aZwd

Human bones found in Afghan presidential palace

The New Indian Express reported on 7 October that two sets of human remains have been discovered in the Afghan presidential palace, a spokesman said on, rekindling memories of the bloody fate of some of the war-ravaged country’s leaders and their families. A pair of skulls and other bones were discovered during construction work in one of the palaces of the presidential compound. Their identities, including gender, as well as the cause of the deaths were not immediately known, but a commission has been set up by President Ashraf Ghani to investigate. “The president has tasked a commission of forensic experts and representatives of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission to examine the bodies and prepare them for proper burial in accordance with Islamic rites,” a statement said. That quest could prove difficult given the fact that Afghanistan has been in a near-permanent state of war for the past 35 years. Several leaders met grisly ends throughout this turbulent period. Burial rites were denied to the country’s first president Mohammad Daud Khan, who was assassinated in a coup d’état in 1978 along with 18 members of his family in the presidential palace. His body was discovered in a mass grave in 2008 along with 15 other victims of the massacre, and was reburied in 2009. http://bit.ly/1VGcvdX

Mexico Army chief refuses to allows international experts to questions troops on Ayotzinapa case

Buenos Aires Herald reported on 7 October that the head of the Mexico Army will not permit international experts to interrogate his troops over allegations they may have been involved in the apparent massacre of 43 students last year, and rejects any suggestion they may have been involved. Salvador Cienfuegos, who is also Mexico’s Defense Minister, told local television late on Monday that none of his troops took part in the attack on the trainee teachers in the southwestern city of Iguala in September last year. A panel of respected international investigators rejected the official report on the case, pointing to suspicions of forced confessions and possible collusion by federal and state security forces, including the army. He denied his troops were involved and said nearly 50 of his soldiers had already been interviewed by the attorney general’s office, some up to four times. He also said investigators from the attorney general’s office, as well as members of Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, had inspected the barracks in Iguala, without finding any evidence to support the Army’s involvement. The Army has been a central pillar of Mexico’s long-running war against drug gangs but the military has also been accused of various rights abuses. http://bit.ly/1FUgrq6

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.