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International Day of the Disappeared
by Asa Butcher
2007-08-30 07:20:36
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Imagine hearing a noise outside your home one day or night. Imagine the next sound is your door being smashed down. Imagine a group of armed men perhaps wearing uniforms screaming and shouting at you and your family. Imagine they violently drag away two of your family members to a waiting vehicle for no reason and on no authority. Imagine that you never see them again.

Today is the International Day of the Disappeared (August 30), an annual day of commemoration to sharpen the world's focus upon the fate of people imprisoned in places and under poor conditions that are unknown to relatives and/or legal representatives. It is a day that many of us will never truly comprehend the extent of its significance, but simply imagining the details of that first paragraph are enough to dry your mouth and send a shiver down your spine.

The concept of the day originated 25 years ago when Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, or FEDEFAM (Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared), was founded in Costa Rica in response the secret imprisonments and forced disappearances that were regularly occurring in a number of Latin-American countries. FEDEFAM is non-governmental and was formed by existing associations of relatives of the disappeared.

This non-profit humanitarian organization is independent of all political or religious doctrines and institutions, plus has Consultative Status (Category II) with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It is estimated that secret imprisonment is practiced in about 30 countries, while the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has registered approximately 46,000 cases of people who have disappeared under unknown circumstances.

FEDEFAM, OHCHR, Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross are among the many international bodies and organizations that are tackling this paralyzing form of human rights abuse and are utilising the International Day of the Disappeared to highlight their work, increase public awareness and call for donations and more volunteers.

According to the FEDEFAM website, forced disappearance was first used as a form of political repression in Latin America during the 1960s. The first Latin American countries to practice forced disappearance were Haiti and Guatemala. The technique was later refined and used in other parts of the world, including Africa and Asia. It is estimated that more than 90,000 people have disappeared in Latin America and, at present, forced disappearance occurs frequently in Colombia, Guatemala and Peru.

The objectives of many of the international bodies and organizations is to rescue victims of forced disappearance and restore the children of parents subjected to forced disappearance, to demand the investigation of all cases of forced disappearance and the judgement and sanction of those responsible for the crime, and to promote national and international legal norms which constitute methods of obtaining justice and of preventing forced disappearance.

Today is your chance to help these organisations by researching this problem a little further and donating what you can to their funds. Every citizen on this planet deserves the right to recognition as a person before the law; the right to liberty and the security of the person; the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the right to life. If we don't have these, well… just imagine.

* * * * * * * *

Amnesty International

Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared

International Committee of the Red Cross

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

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Emanuel Paparella2007-08-30 14:05:03
All those rights mentioned at the end of this invaluable eye-opener and wake-up call are inalienable rights. As such, man's inhumanity to man, cannot be legislated away, until they are recognized as such by most governments who'd like to pretend that they give them and they take them away. They don't. They belong to a higher natural law. As the Scottish poet Robert Burn put it: a man is a man for a that.

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