Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Decade of Struggle Towards A World Without Desaparecidos…

AFAD Celebrates its 10th Anniversary
by Daisy Valerio

On June 4, 2008, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) celebrated its 10th anniversary in Manila, Philippines. The day was, indeed, a red-letter day for the federation which is presently composed of 8 organizations for the disappeared from Indonesia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand. For this special day, delegates of the member-organizations along with partners from Latin America and Eastern Europe gathered together with families of the disappeared and surfaced desaparecidos, victims of other human rights violations, members of the human rights community, non-governmental organizations and peoples' organizations, some representatives of the diplomatic community and from government agencies, people from the academe and the church as well as friends from other sectors. Although not physically present, more friends and partners made their presence felt through their very warm solidarity statements that helped mark this important juncture in AFAD's history.

Looking far back, it took almost a year of conception which started in May 1997 before the federation's core group composed of three organizations for the disappeared in the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Kashmir was launched on June 4, 1998 in Manila. The Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared-Detainees (FEDEFAM), which then already had years of rich experiences in terms of federation-building, greatly contributed to AFAD's conception and birth. Right from its early beginnings, AFAD envisioned to serve as an Asia-wide response to the regional phenomena of enforced disappearances. At that time, Asian governments could easily project that involuntary disappearance was solely a Latin American phenomenon. Ten years after AFAD was born, these Asian governments cannot anymore do the same as the federation's very existence speaks to the contrary.

The Filipino saying, "Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa patutunguhan…" (One who does not know how to look back will never reach one's destination…), is very much entrenched in AFAD's 10th anniversary celebration. On the day itself, two separate but interrelated activities were held. In the morning, AFAD's WEBOPAC (WEB Online Public Access Catalog) was launched at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Quezon City and a Solidarity Dinner was held in the evening in Jade Valley also in Quezon City.

Prior to the presentation of AFAD's WEBOPAC during the morning activity, the highlights of the federation's history which included its conception, birth and growth were presented. The presentation was able to capture the AFAD realities, an important part of which is the fact that although regional federation-building on the involuntary disappearance issue was a pioneering initiative in Asia, AFAD was certain with what it wanted to do and where it was leading to right from its early beginning. As presented in the power point, AFAD's clarity of purpose and direction was confirmed by its concrete achievements in the years after its birth particularly its capacity to build itself into an Asian-wide federation of organizations for the disappeared in essence and in form and link up with the international movement against involuntary disappearance which greatly helped pave the way for the unanimous adoption by the UN General Assembly of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on the 20th of December 2006.

The music video that followed complemented the power point presentation of AFAD's history. The powerful theme song of the federation which was composed a couple of years ago was given more flesh through the very expressive photos of individual members of AFAD's member-organizations from the different Asian countries during the series of psychosocial processing and self-healing facilitated by the federation over the past years. Indeed, time cannot automatically heal all wounds. Certainly though, people who went through similar experiences although they come from different countries and cultures like that of the families of the disappeared gain strength from one another in their mere togetherness and in their collective efforts to campaign for justice for their loved ones.

The WEBOPAC launching came towards the middle of the activity. To recall, the AFAD Resource Center was established in May 2006 in honor of two human rights defenders, Aasia Jeelani of Kashmir and Munir of Indonesia and dedicated to all desaparecidos particularly in Asia. Being a computerized online catalog of all the resource center's current materials, the OPAC greatly contributes to the advancement of the federation's resource center. Generally, web-based OPACS are also known as iPAC (Internet/Intranet Public Access Catalog). The OPAC will greatly help researchers of the AFAD library as they get information on its contents through the internet. This is another venue for AFAD to go public in order to project the involuntary disappearance issue and gather support to the cause of the disappeared in a much wider manner.

In the evening of June 4, a solidarity dinner was held among AFAD's member-organizations and partners as well as families and relatives of the disappeared and other friends of the federation. The mood that prevailed that night was light, joyful and strengthening as AFAD's council members along with officers and delegates from member-organizations and visitors came up with their unique musical and other presentations. In the main, the warm togetherness on that night serves as a symbol of the unending hope that someday, tears could be wiped away, justice will be achieved for the disappeared and their families and the phenomenon of involuntary disappearance will gradually be eradicated from this planet.

" A Decade of Struggle Towards A World Without Desaparecidos, " the theme of AFAD's 10th anniversary apply captures its accomplishments and its vision of eradicating this most cruel form of human rights violation from the face of the earth.

Related activities

In time for the International Day of the Disappeared, AFAD held a Public forum in cooperation with the Human Rights Center at the Ateneo Law School in Makati City on May 30, 2008. The theme for the forum was: Enforced Disappearance is Anti-life! Sign and Ratify the United Nations Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance." The Invocation was offered by Catholic priest, Fr. John Leydon. Starting from the opening remarks given by former House Rep. Hon. Loretta Ann Rosales and all throughout the forum, focus was given on the calling of all governments especially the Philippine government to sign and ratify said Convention. In line with this, Ms. Aileen D. Bacalso, AFAD's Secretary General, presented the status of the Convention. Her presentation speaks that indeed, much remains to be done prior to its signing and ratification by Asian governments and its eventual entry into force. The gravity of involuntary disappearance in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe were gleaned from the concrete presentations of the AFAD delegates and friends from these countries. Dr. Edita Burgos of the Free Jonas Movement in the Philippines shared her family's experience in searching for her recently-disappeared son, Jonas Burgos, while Jun Lozada, the ZTE Deal star witness, shared his experience as a surfaced desaparecido. Atty. Byron Bocar, the Legislative officer of the office of House Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, spoke on the present status of the bill dealing with enforced disappearances. Chair of the Ateneo Human Rights Center, Atty. Carlos P. Medina shared the concrete experiences of lawyers and judges in the course of their defense of the families of victims of enforced disappearances. The Open Forum after the presentations was very enriching.

Prior to the 10th anniversary celebration, AFAD's Council officers and members, the other delegates, the Secretariat and three guests went through a three-day training from June 1-3. This was titled, "Advocacy and Protection: Maximizing the UN Human Rights Council and its Mechanisms to Attain AFAD's Goal in Fighting Involuntary Disappearances. The training was facilitated by Atty. Cecilia Jimenez, a Filipina lawyer based in Geneva who is well-versed on the UN mechanisms and international lobbying in general. The training is a part of AFAD's bracing up for the tasks and challenges ahead vis-à-vis continuing human rights violations in Asia.

It is also important to note that as soon as representatives of AFAD member-organizations returned to their respective countries, local activities to commemorate the event were conducted at the national level to ensure the participation of families of the disappeared in the commemoration of a Federation that they belong.

Indeed, AFAD's 10th anniversary celebration is a very important milestone in the history of the federation. Strengthened by its experiences over the past years, the 10-year old federation braces itself for greater challenges and tasks ahead.

1 comment:

duarte said...

hi,great blog,great work you make hier,congratulations..............greetings from switzerland

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