Friday, January 16, 2009

60 Years of UDHR

60 Years of UDHR;
Dignity and Justice for All the Disappeared

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) turns 60 on 10 December 2008. The document which confirms the acceptance of 30 rights was adopted by UN member states on 10 December 1948. It began as an initiative of governments, but today it is the common goal of people everywhere. In this years’s anniversary, the United Nations put the theme “Dignity and Justice for All of Us”. AFAD, as a regional federation working directly on the issue of disappearances in Asia modifies it in accordance with its mandate, “Dignity and Justice for All the Disappeared”. It marks the importance of the continuing struggle for the dignity and justice of all disappeared person all over the world.

Although the declaration has been adopted 60 years ago, all must still have to work very hard together to make that promise of universal, indivisible human rights a reality. Our world of today is still marked with practices that are obviously in strong contradiction with such universal value of human rights. Genocide, mass atrocities and armed conflicts in Darfur Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Srilanka, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Southern Thailand, Philippines, Columbia and many others are some of the examples. Recent heinous terrorists act like the one in Mumbay, India is another warning for the world order of the day.

Asia is still a continent no better than others in the sense of human rights realities. Countries like Srilanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Timor Leste, are still safe havens for the commission of human rights violation. The ongoing practices of extrajudicial killings and disappearances in the Philippines and repressions against human rights defenders in Kashmir, India are few to mention.

The latter refers to an event when Attorney Parvez Imroz, President of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) along with a team of around 50 volunteers composed of journalists, human rights activists, trade union activists from within and outside Kashmir, were beaten and detained in Bandipora when monitoring the first phase of the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Assembly Election in November 2008. Thanks to the massif supports and solidarity from fellow civil society in Kashmir and International community that all the detained were finally released the day after their arrest.

In the context of the struggle for the world without enforced disappearances, many efforts still need to be done. Almost two years after its adoption of the United Nations Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances by the UN General Assembly, only 6 ratification and 78 signatures are achieved despite of the fact that it needs only 20 ratifications to enter into force. Of the six ratifications, none is from Asia.

Despites of the difficult journey, the 60th anniversary of the UDHR also bring hopes to some improvement in the level of formal human rights performance. Some of the indications among others are the development of the Bill criminalizing disappearances in Nepal that has been submitted by the government in November to the Constituent Assembly. This Bill second the existing similar Bill in the Philippines that has been the Bill for more than a decade.

Some judicial processes on the cases of disappearances are also undergoing progress like the one in Indonesia, on the case of disappearances of pro democracy activists in 1997-1998. The case is now awaiting investigation and prosecution before the ad hoc human rights court in Jakarta.

The struggle for dignity and justice for everyone is never easy. But the Universal declaration of Human Rights which covers 30 rights have given us foundation and conviction that it is not impossible. But it is so only when it is being done together.

Dignity and justice for all disappeared.

December 10, 2008

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