World News Digest March

Monthly Digest

Yezidi children and women who fled Sinjar Mountain re-enter Iraq from Syria at a border crossing in the town of Peshkhabour in Dohuk Governorate. Photo: UNICEF/Wathiq Khuzaie


ICMP’s Daily World News Digest brings together news stories dealing with enforced disappearances and missing persons cases from around the world. It offers a snapshot of daily events and over a longer period it highlights key trends.


On 2 March, the Menafn news portal carried a story on El Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, which has continued its work via social media despite an order from the Ministry of Health for it to close. The portal said a recent report by the center had observed 155 cases of enforced disappearances, and 44 cases of reappeared persons after an enforced disappearance. The Al Monitor news portal reported on 7 March that while enforced disappearances are not new to Egypt, previous incidents were less common and were not documented systematically. The Independent carried a story on 10 March reporting that the European Parliament had unanimously condemned the Egyptian authorities’ “large-scale campaign of arbitrary detention” and the “long list of enforced disappearances” that have occurred since June 2013. The Egyptian Co-ordination for Rights and Freedoms claims to have recorded 1,840 cases of enforced disappearance in 2015. Daily News Egypt reported on 12 March that the EU resolution had effectively condemned Egyptian security forces for the murder of Italian PhD student, Giulio Regeni. The young Cambridge scholar was forcibly disappeared and killed while conducting research on independent trade unions in Egypt. The El Nadeem Centre reported 464 cases of enforced disappearances in 2015. Nearly 700 people are reported to have been tortured. On 14 March, Middle East Eye reported that Italy’s chief prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone had offered Rome’s assistance in the Egyptian investigation into the murder of Regeni. AllAfrica news portal carried a story on 17 March saying that the Egyptian team in charge of investigating the murder will visit Rome to foster coordination on the case, according to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Daily News Egypt reported on 19 March that the UN Human Rights Council for Human Rights, meeting in Geneva, had called for an international committee to investigate conditions in Egypt’s prisons. Conference participants focused on enforced disappearances in Egypt, including the Regeni case. On 21 March, Daily News Egypt carried a story saying that Egypt’s Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal had spoken at the 134th session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, rejecting criticism of Egypt by the European Parliament. The same paper carried a story on 22 March saying that the State Security Prosecution had renewed the detention of Egyptian student Islam Hamzay for 15 days, after he was accused of recruiting young men to travel and fight among the troops of the militant group Al-Nusra Front in Syria. On 24 March, Daily News Egypt reported that in the space of two weeks five international institutions had expressed “serious concerns” about human rights in Egypt. It said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had issued a statement in which he “reiterated his support for the important work of Egyptian human rights organizations in promoting and implementing universal principles and standards of human rights.” The same paper reported on 28 March that the State Security Prosecution had renewed the detention of 14-year-old Asser Zahr El-Deen, charged with belonging to a terrorist group, for an additional 15 days. An official at the Ministry of Interior told Daily News Egypt: “There is no such thing as the enforced disappearance phenomenon.”


Bloomberg reported on 1 March that Burundian police had discovered a mass grave in the capital, Bujumbura, where about 30 bodies were buried. A UN human-rights team was expected to arrive in Burundi the same day to investigate possible abuses. The International Business Times reported on 3 March that following the discovery of a mass grave near Burundi’s capital, the ruling CNDD-FDD party on 2 March accused foreign journalists of covering up the existence of the grave and threatened them with legal action. Bujumbura Mayor Freddy Mbonimpa had already rejected Amnesty International’s charge that the government had carried out executions. The New York Times reported on 10 March that Burundi’s attorney-general had acknowledged that the government had buried dozens of suspected rebels who died after attacks on four military bases, without notifying their families, but he did not acknowledge the existence of mass graves. Human rights groups have accused the Burundi government of trying to hide the extent of the killings during the 11 December attacks by burying bodies in mass graves. Attorney-General Valentin Bagorikunda said that of 87 people who died, the government had buried 58 bodies of suspected rebels. Anadolu Agency reported on 19 March that two mass graves, along with one nearby dead body, had been discovered in the Cibitoke district, north of Bujumbura. Ntahangwa Eddy Hakizimana, the Cibitoke administrator, said that excavations have begun to make possible identifications of the corpses in the mass graves. The UN News Center issued a statement on 22 March saying that a climate for inclusive dialogue is urgently required to eradicate the polarization and fragmentation of Burundian society. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic noted that since the crisis began in April 2015, at least 474 people have been killed, and there are 36 cases of alleged enforced disappearances. In addition, some 5,000 people have been detained – of whom at least 1,834 remain in detention, some reportedly tortured and ill-treated. The International Business Times UK carried a story on 24 March saying that for the first time since the crisis began in April 2015, sixty Burundian families had formally mandated a group of lawyers to bring cases before the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Criminal Court regarding alleged crimes against humanity. The crisis has killed up to 900 people, it said. On 29 March The Global Post carried a feature story about Nigimbere Oliver, who had no time to act when three men stormed into her parents’ house in southern Burundi and slaughtered her mother and father before bludgeoning her two-year-old son to death with a piece of wood. She is one of 132,000 Burundian refugees who have sought refuge in Tanzania since last April. Torture, abductions and arbitrary arrests have increased since the beginning of the year, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Bodies have been dumped in streets, buried in mass graves, or taken to unknown destinations. Cara Jones, a US political science professor, put the number of dead at 1,200.

South Sudan

The Sudan Tribune reported on 2 March that an investigation by South Sudanese internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Malakal camp manned by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has found that more than 40 people died, and more than 90 others were injured with many more missing following clashes involving rival youth groups. The statement blamed UN peacekeepers in Malakal for failing to stop armed attacks and for allegedly killing civilians who sought refuge within the UNMISS compound. Human Rights Watch issued a statement on 6 March saying that South Sudanese government forces have carried out numerous killings, enforced disappearances, rapes, and other grave abuses in the Western Equatoria region during expanded fighting. Rebel armed groups have also committed serious abuses, including rape, it said. Yahoo News reported on 11 March that aid workers and officials have said the number of casualties in the last two years of fighting might be as high as 300,000. Multiple armed forces have carried out ethnic massacres. Human Rights Watch, which documented mass graves in the eastern town of Bor in January 2014, warned that, “Evidence is literally disappearing into unmarked graves.” On 11 March Amnesty International issued a statement  saying that South Sudanese government forces had deliberately suffocated more than 60 men and boys who were detained in a shipping container, before dumping their bodies in an open field in Leer town, Unity State. Voice of America reported on 15 March that war crimes, including killings, systematic rape, and forced disappearances remain daily occurrences in South Sudan, as highlighted in reports this month from the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.


AllAfrica news portal reported on 14 March that two years after at least 640 recaptured detainees were killed by soldiers of the Nigerian Army, the authorities have failed to conduct an effective, impartial and independent investigation. The detainees, many of whom, it said, had been arbitrarily arrested in mass screening operations, were killed after they fled the barracks in Maiduguri, Borno state on 14 March 2014 following a Boko Haram attack. Sahara Reporters carried a story on 21 March saying that the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the massacre of nearly 1000 civilians in Zaria, Nigeria that took place in December 2015. According to the filing submitted by the IHRC, Nigerian soldiers attacked unarmed members and supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in Zaria, Kaduna State on 12 -14 December 2015, and their actions constitute crimes against humanity. According to sources gathered by the IHRC, 217 civilians were confirmed killed in the attacks, while 219 are in detention and another 482 are missing. Human Rights Watch issued a statement on 29 March saying that the Nigerian government should take urgent steps to secure the release of about 400 women and children, including at least 300 elementary school students, abducted by Boko Haram from the town of Damasak in Borno State a year ago. It is unclear whether the Nigerian government has made any serious effort to secure their release, it said. Damasak is the largest documented school abduction by Boko Haram militants, yet it has drawn far less public attention than the group’s widely condemned abduction of 276 school girls from a government secondary school in Chibok in April 2014.


New Zimbabwe reported on 8 March that the family of a missing Zimbabwean human rights activist had won a High Court ruling overturning a police ban on a commemorative march. Itai Dzamara was seized by men who took him from a barbershop and bundled the former newspaper reporter into a waiting car with concealed number plates on 9 March 2015. Enforced disappearance of government opponents is becoming a pattern in Zimbabwe, said Amnesty International.  On 9 March Voice of America carried a story on the abduction Dzamara. It quoted Concelia Chinanzvavana, who was abducted during the 2008 elections, and who said that the failure by the government to punish those who abduct innocent Zimbabweans shows that the state is complicit in the abductions.


Vice News reported on 9 March that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had stated that he would only sign a peace deal with Marxist rebels by a March deadline if a satisfactory accord had been reached, and would extend the talks if necessary. Negotiators based in Cuba had reached partial agreements on land reform, guerrilla participation in politics, transitional justice, efforts to find missing persons and remove land mines, and an end to illegal drug trafficking. With the process apparently entering its final stages the UN has promised a monitoring mission. The Latin American Herald Tribune reported on 11 March that the number of missing persons in Colombia has risen to 79,000, according to an official tally cited by the International Committee of the Red Cross. It said there was no precise figure on those missing as a direct result of the armed conflict, although “they are believed to total over 45,000 based on figures from the consolidated Register of Victims.” These numbers “exceed those of any other country in the hemisphere and those of the majority of recent armed conflicts worldwide.” Telesur reported on 20 March that a Colombian general had “walked out” of a meeting with victims of enforced disappearance who had been invited to present their report and recommendations to government officials and FARC guerrillas at the peace talks in Havana. Amnesty International issued a statement on 30 March saying that justice for the many victims of human rights abuses and violations must lie at the heart of peace talks announced between the government and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN). The government and the ELN, the country’s second largest guerrilla group, said that official peace negotiations between the two sides are soon to take place, mainly in Ecuador.


On 29 February Telesur reported that the Mexican state committed “massive and systematic” human rights abuses in the southwestern state of Oaxaca in 2006 and 2007, according to the final report of the Oaxaca Truth Commission. The report blames the government for detentions, torture and inhumane treatment, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. Conflict in Oaxaca broke out in mid-2006 when a teachers’ strike over low education funding developed into a popular uprising demanding the resignation of state Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, who refused to step down. The Latin American Herald Tribune carried a story on 2 March saying that relatives of five young people who disappeared on 11 January in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz will accept the authorities’ account that they are dead “the day there is evidence,” a family member of two of the youths said. “Based on the information that we have, (the young people) were burned, later grinded down, likely in a sugar mill, and thrown into a small river,” Government Undersecretary for Human Rights Roberto Campa said. The five victims were arrested by state police at a gas station in Tierra Blanca as they returned from vacation, with the incident caught by security cameras. Campa acknowledged that the Tierra Blanca case was similar to the case of Ayotzinapa students. On 2 march, Prensa Latina reported  that in 2015, the number of people missing in Mexico rose from 25,293, to 27,215. The latest figures for January 2016 show that there are now 28,161 people reported as missing, including 946 who disappeared while under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Mexico. Tamaulipas still leads the Mexican states with 5,622 missing person cases, followed by the state of Mexico with 2,925 missing. Mexican officials point out that the most common causes are voluntary disappearances due to domestic problems, migration, serving a sentence in a penitentiary, or being the victim of crime. Yahoo News carried a story on 3 March saying that the human rights situation in Mexico is “tragic” and the problems don’t just involve drug violence but also torture, impunity, excessive force and police collusion with criminals, according to a panel of the Organization of American States. Of particular concern are the reports of disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture. “Family members’ discoveries of mass graves with dozens of bodies underscore that they are the ones who have undertaken the search for their loved ones given the State’s ineffectiveness,” the panel’s report said. On 3 March Telesur reported that the Mexican Supreme Court had ordered the Attorney General’s Office to open an investigation into the killing of 72 migrants that occurred six years ago in the town of San Fernando, Tamaulipas. The massacre took place in August 2010, when 58 men and 14 women from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Ecuador and Brazil were killed. The remains of the bodies were found in 2011 in several mass graves in the San Fernando region. Relatives of the victims claim that the investigations carried out so far have been inadequate. Mexico News Daily carried a story on 28 March saying that three more youths have disappeared in Veracruz and, once again, municipal police have been arrested as suspects. The arrests come nine days after the disappearance of three young men in two separate incidents in the north of the state of Veracruz. On 27 March Fox News Latino carried a story saying that relatives of the 43 students who disappeared in southern Mexico in 2014 had planted forget-me-nots in Mexico City to mark 18 months since the young people went missing. About 100 people gathered at the makeshift memorial on Mexico City’s iconic Paseo de la Reforma that protesters have labeled an “anti-monument” to plant flowers in memory of the 43 Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School students who disappeared on 26 September, 2014 in Iguala in the southern state of Guerrero. Reuters reported on 29 March that an international panel of experts that picked apart the Mexican government’s account of what happened to 43 students will cease work in the country by late April, according to a senior government official. Deputy Interior Minister Roberto Campa said the experts’ time in Mexico would come to a close by the end of April. “It should be Mexican institutions … that conclude the investigation, the search, and we should be capable of advancing in the attention we pay to the victims,” Campa said.


The Guardian reported on 23 March that Argentina’s main human rights groups had announced they would boycott Barack Obama’s visit to the country, which coincides with the 40th anniversary of the military coup that led to the deaths of thousands of people. On Wednesday, Obama repeated a pledge to declassify US military and intelligence documents about America’s role in the military dictatorship. However, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo announced they would not be present at the ceremony in the memorial park for victims of the dictatorship. Yahoo News reported on 23 March that the Vatican had announced that it is well on the way to opening its archives on Argentina’s “Dirty War”, which could bring new evidence to light on the fate of missing victims. The archives contain reports by the Vatican’s ambassadors to Buenos Aires on the stances taken by Argentine bishops, as well as political and legal documents and references to the disappeared. The country’s bishops were divided, with many supporting the military over the socialist opposition.


On 1 March, MacLean’s Magazine reported that the Canadian provinces had agreed to co-operate with and support a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett called the commitment an important step forward. It means child welfare, policing, education and other areas that are fully or partly under provincial jurisdiction will be examined when the inquiry begins. The Daily Beast carried a feature on 3 March about a Winnipeg resident, Shauna Taylor, who spent her teenage years struggling with an addiction to hard drugs and alcohol. Now in her 40s, Taylor has managed to graduate from college and start mentoring young people in her community. The story cites a report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) that 1,800 indigenous women in Canada have been murdered or gone missing since the 1980s, and notes that advocates estimate that the actual number is closer to 4,000. CBC News reported on 7 March that the Winnipeg Police Service had responded to an emotional letter written by a teenage girl accusing the police of treating cases of missing indigenous persons differently than those of non-indigenous people.  “The WPS as a whole and our missing persons unit — our detectives and our coordinators — care about every missing persons report and we strive hard to reach a successful outcome on all of our missing person files,” said Det.-Sgt. Shauna Neufeld. Global News Canada carried a feature on 16 March on Tamara Chipman, who disappeared in 2005 along the so-called “highway of tears” in northern British Columbia. It cites a poll earlier in March that showed that while a majority of Canadians support a federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, fewer than half believe that the endeavor will prompt lasting change.


The BBC reported on 6 March that a boat carrying migrants from Turkey to Greece had sunk with the loss of 25 lives. Fifteen people were rescued after the boat capsized near the Turkish resort of Didim. The report noted that NATO is expanding its mission in the Aegean to send patrols to Turkish and Greek territorial waters in the battle to defeat people smugglers. IOM issued a statement on 18 March saying that with the end of winter, the Central Mediterranean migrant route between North Africa and Sicily has become busier, indicating a surge of migrant and refugee arrivals underway in the months to come. Including sea routes to Spain and the Greek Islands, IOM estimates that some 156,000 migrants and refugees landed in Europe from Africa and the Middle East in the first ten and a half weeks of 2016. That compares to fewer than 20,000 migrant and refugees during the same period in 2015. According to IOM estimates, almost 470 migrants lost their lives at sea in the period since the beginning of the year: 362 in the Aegean, 100 in the Channel of Sicily, and five more in the waters between Spain and Africa. Last year, through the end of March, more than 500 migrants drowned, mainly in the Channel of Sicily between Italy and Libya. The Wall Street Journal carried a story on 29 March saying that the combination of closed borders and migration has turned Athens’s Victoria Square into the center of a barely disguised human-trafficking business.

Reuters reported on 21 March that around 25,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority have left camps for displaced people in western Myanmar and returned to the communities they fled during sectarian violence in 2012. Many of them were smuggled or trafficked to Thailand, Malaysia and beyond. The number of migrants has fallen sharply this year, it said.

Yahoo News reported on 15 March that the trial of 92 suspected human traffickers, arrested after the discovery of shallow graves of migrants in the Thai jungle, had begun in Bangkok and the attorney-general’s office said the proceedings would be over within a year amid fears for the safety of witnesses. The 92 suspected human traffickers include an army general, civilians and police. Traffickers abandoned boatloads of migrants at sea after a crackdown by Thai authorities that led to a regional migrant crisis. The investigation and arrests followed the discovery of 139 graves at a trafficking camp near the Malaysian border. On 30 March, Voice of America carried a story saying that human rights and civil society organizations say Thailand’s policies towards asylum seekers and refugees has hardened in recent years. In the past year, dozens of Chinese asylum-seekers have been sent back to China by Thai authorities. A recent joint statement by Thai-based refugee groups to a rights conference in Geneva said those extradited face the risk of persecution, torture or enforced disappearance once returned to China.


The UN News Center reported on 8 March that UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues Rita Izsák-Ndiayevoiced had expressed alarm over the predicament of the Yezidi community, whose women and girls have been held captive by Daesh. She called for concerted efforts to free the women and for protection of mass graves and other evidence of atrocities. ARA News reported on 15 March that Islamic State had released 19 Yezidi hostages who had been abducted during an attack on Sinjar in northern Iraq. A Kurdish official said the majority of the released hostages were children and women, while there remained thousands of Yezidis in IS prisons. After the departure IS from Sinjar, Kurdish forces discovered several mass graves. Most of the victims were Yezidi women and children. The Rudaw network reported on 17 March that Kurdish authorities have selected 25 Yezidi mass graves in Iraq to be presented to specialists from the International Criminal Court. On 28 March AhlulBayt News Agency quoted the head of ICMP’s Iraq Program, Trefor Williams, as saying that efforts are underway to preserve the mass graves in Sinjar. ICMP is training local experts to conduct exhumations of mass graves.  Rudaw reported on 30 March that four experts from ICMP’s Iraq Program had begun giving a four-day course to investigators on the proper handling of exhumation procedures.


Newsweek Middle East carried a story on 16 March about the efforts of mothers of those who disappeared during the 1975-90 Lebanese Civil War to account for their loved ones, and the new round of disappearances since the start of the conflict in Syria. According to aid workers, rescue missions and non-government organizations, an estimated 100,000 Syrians have been listed as missing since the war broke out five years ago. The article brings stories of the Lebanese and Syrian families of the missing, who recount their experiences in an attempt to raise awareness.

Sri Lanka

The Daily Financial Times, Viva Lanka and the Colombo Gazette from Sri Lanka reported on 16 March that ICMP and the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) had held a roundtable discussion in Trincomalee to analyze requirements for a systematic and effective process to account for those who are missing as a result of more than 25 years of conflict. This was part of an initiative organized by a consortium of agencies operating as part of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC). The Hindu reported on 23 March that face-to-face consultations with stakeholders throughout Sri Lanka are expected to begin in April to design reconciliation mechanisms. Manouri Muttetuwegama, chairperson of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms, said the process would go on for a period of months. Among the mechanisms planned by the Sri Lanka government are an Office on Missing Persons; a Truth, Reconciliation, Justice and Non-Recurrence Commission; an accountability mechanism, and an Office of Reparations. The Colombo Gazette reported on 25 March that the Presidential Commission to Investigate into Complaints Regarding Missing Persons had begun fresh public hearings in the Mullaitivu District. It said the Commission had invited 1,600 people to record oral statements over a 6-day period in Mullaitivu, Mannar and Vavuniya regarding family members reported missing during the war.

China & Hong Kong

Voice of America carried a story on 10 March saying that the US and Western countries had criticized “China’s ongoing problematic human rights record,” in an unprecedented joint statement issued during a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.  The joint statement called recent cases of unexplained disappearances and apparent coerced returns of Chinese and foreign citizens from outside mainland China “unacceptable” extraterritorial actions, as well as “out of step” with the expectations of the international community and “a challenge to the rules based international order.” On 18 March the Japan Times reported that a well-known Chinese columnist had gone missing after warning former colleagues of the danger of re-publishing an open letter calling for President Xi Jinping to resign, the journalist’s lawyer said. Jia Jia, who writes a regular column for Tencent Online, went missing late Tuesday, around the time he was scheduled to board a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong. Before his scheduled departure, Jia had told friends he believed something could happen to him after he had warned former colleagues about republishing the letter.

Reuters carried a story on 1 March saying that a Hong Kong bookseller and British passport holder who disappeared last year, Lee Bo, had said he had not been kidnapped by Chinese authorities, as many had suspected, but had sneaked into China illegally and that he would renounce his British citizenship. In a 20-minute interview with China’s Phoenix Television, Lee gave the first detailed account of his disappearance from Hong Kong in December, saying he had returned to China voluntarily. Lee didn’t give details on how he’d crossed the border into China, or who had helped him and when he might return. International Business Times reported on 3 March that three of the five missing booksellers from Hong Kong will soon be freed on bail while Chinese officials continue their investigation, according to Hong Kong police. Mainland officials confirmed that Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping and Lam Wing-kee will be “released on bail pending investigation in the coming few days.” The Japan Times carried a story on 6 March saying that the second of the five booksellers had returned to Hong Kong. Cheung Chi-ping’s return came a week after he appeared on Chinese television with four of his colleagues, where some admitted to smuggling illicit literature into the mainland. Cheung had been missing since October. Reuters reported on 8 March that in a series of at least ten emails reviewed by Reuters, bookseller Lee Bo said he feared a missing colleague had been taken by agents from China for “political reasons”. Lee himself went missing in December, weeks after he sent the emails to the daughter of his colleague, Gui Minhai, who is still being held in China. “We fear that he (Gui) was taken by special agents from China for political reasons,” Lee said in one of the emails dated 10 November. Lee said on Chinese television last week that he had not been kidnapped but had sneaked into China illegally to help with an investigation. Yahoo News carried a story on 10 March saying that two of the booksellers released from mainland Chinese custody had gone straight back to China after returning home to ask police to drop their missing persons cases. The South China Morning Post reported on 17 March that one of the five booksellers had said he was allowed to travel freely between Hong Kong and the mainland after being released on bail. On 25 March the International Business Times carried a story saying that Lee Bo had reappeared in Hong Kong after three months. The Hong Kong government said in a statement that Lee had been “handed over” to immigration officials at the border. It also said that he had not provided “thorough information” about how he had left Hong Kong for China without passing through immigration.


The Kathmandu Post reported on 1 March that Nepal had rejected all the 29 recommendations on human rights that were made during the 23rd Universal Periodic Review in Geneva. Nepal has refused to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The government has formed the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons but disappearance and torture are yet to be criminalized. A majority of the suggestions were linked to the newly formed transitional justice mechanism and some related to torture, disappearances and human trafficking. On 1 March, the Asian Human Rights Commission issued a statement noting that many Nepalese suffered at the hands of the state and the rebels during the decade-long conflict and more than 1,400 were disappeared. Their fate and whereabouts are still unknown. Real Rights Now is a new campaign to highlight the need for justice against human rights violations and support family activism for the right to know. The Kathmandu Post carried a story on 17 March saying that the National Human Rights Commission had reiterated its position on the rights situation and the Nepal government’s obligation to protect and promote human rights as committed to the UN Human Rights Council. It cited a report released by Human Rights Watch in October highlighting the use of arbitrary and disproportionate force, and extrajudicial killings by the police against protesters. Raising the issue of torture and enforced disappearance, which are yet to be criminalized, the International Commission of Jurists has questioned the legitimacy of the transitional justice bodies. The Kathmandu Post reported on 24 March, the sixth International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims, that truth for victims in Nepal “has been systematically ignored and repressed since the end of the armed conflict a decade ago, particularly for the families of the disappeared.”


Reuters reported on 18 March that rights activists have called on Indonesia’s parliament to reject government proposals to tighten the country’s anti-terrorism laws. The revisions to the law, proposed in the wake of a militant attack in Jakarta in January, include detention without trial for up to three months and allow the arrest of people “if they assemble to discuss terrorist and radical acts”. “The proposed amendments would authorize unnecessarily prolonged detention of suspects, putting them at risk of torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary detention,” said the statement. On the same day the Post reported that the government intends to settle past human rights violations by early May through reconciliation, or through a non-judicial process, despite criticism by human rights groups and families of victims. These violations include among others the May 1998 riots and the disappearances of activists, said Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan. Feri Kusuma, an activist from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that the groups were disappointed that the government’s final effort on past human rights abuse cases would be reconciliation without taking the perpetrators to court. On 30 March The Jakarta Post carried a story saying that activists are urging the government to form an independent commission to push for a legal settlement of Indonesia’s historical human rights issues. Advocacy group Setara Institute and family members of victims of past human rights abuses held a closed-door meeting with the Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres) to convey to it the proposed formation of a Presidential Commission on the Disclosure of Truth and the Recuperation of Victims. Activists from the Victims Solidarity Network for Justice (JSKK) and the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) are continuing with weekly protests until this issue is resolved.


On 2 & & March El Pais of Costa Rica and El Ojo Digital of Argentina reported that Colombia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Juan Jose Quintana, had hosted a meeting of diplomats from the Group of Latin American Countries (GRULAC) in The Hague to highlight the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and to discuss the issue of missing and disappeared persons in the region. Countries in Latin America face complex challenges related to accounting for missing persons. However, effective strategies have been developed and governments and other stakeholders can address the issue successfully by working with one another and with international agencies, Kathryne Bomberger, the Director-General of the ICMP, said during the meeting. On 2 March The New York Times and other news outlets reported the death of entrepreneur Jim Kimsey, who was for many years Chairman of ICMP.  CBC News carried a story on 3 March saying that the ICMP lab had been able to link human remains found in northern British Columbia two decades ago to a Prince Rupert teenager who went missing in 1981. Deutsche Welle carried a story on 18 March saying that with German support, the Vietnamese government has begun an effort to identify the remains of 500,000 war dead. Experts point to the participation of ICMP, noting that it can share lessons learned in former Yugoslavia with the Vietnamese, the report said.

Genocide and War Crimes Trial

Voice of America carried a story on 23 March ahead of the verdict in the case of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  It quoted Mirsada Malagic, who said that Karadzic had already sentenced her to a life of mourning. Malagic testified against Karadzic during his trial. Serb forces killed her husband and two sons in Srebrenica. In 2009, forensic experts found the skeletons of her son Admir, 15, and her husband, Salko, in mass graves. Amnesty International UK issued a statement on 24 March saying that the guilty verdict handed down by the ICTY marked a major step towards justice for victims of the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina: “We should not forget, however, that more than 20 years after the Bosnian War, thousands of cases of enforced disappearances are unresolved, with a disturbing lack of political will still blocking access to justice, truth and reparation for victims.” Yahoo News reported on 25 March that survivors of the Srebrenica massacre said the 40-year jail term handed down to Karadzic was not tough enough and came too late.