ASEAN: More progress needed on the ratification of the treaty on enforced disappearances

30/08/2015
Press release

Paris, 30 August 2015: ASEAN member states must accelerate the process of ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), FIDH said today on the occasion of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

“By becoming a state party to the ICPPED, states will have a legal obligation to investigate all cases of enforced disappearances and deliver justice to the victims and their families,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. Governments will no longer be able to remain idle and rely on the belief that the passage of time will ultimately render cases of disappearances into obscurity.”

Between 1980 and 2014, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), transmitted 1,065 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearance to eight of the 10 current ASEAN member states (excluding Brunei and Singapore). Eight hundred and seventy-five (82%) of those cases have remained unresolved. The Philippines topped the list with 625 cases, followed by Indonesia, 163, and Thailand, 81.

Cambodia is the only ASEAN member state that has become a party to ICPPED. Three other countries, Laos, Indonesia, and Thailand have signed, but are yet to ratify the convention.

Laos signed the ICPPED in September 2008. However, the Lao government has since failed to adequately investigate numerous cases of enforced disappearances. The most prominent case is the disappearance of civil society leader Sombath Somphone, who was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of Vientiane on the evening of 15 December 2012.

Indonesia, which signed the convention in September 2010, is still grappling with the legacy of unsolved cases of enforced disappearances that occurred under President Suharto in 1997-1998. During his presidential election campaign, President Joko Widodo promised to address the issue of enforced disappearances. However, after his election, several members of Widodo’s administration backtracked and made statements suggesting that past human rights violations, including cases of enforced disappearances, would not be investigated and those responsible would not be prosecuted.

Thailand signed the ICPPED in January 2012. Since then, according to the WGEID, the country has witnessed the highest number of enforced disappearances in ASEAN. Between November 2012 and May 2014, 10 of the 18 cases of enforced disappearances reported in ASEAN member states occurred in Thailand. They include the enforced disappearance of Karen human rights defender Porlagee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen on 17 April 2014.

“Rights groups, activists, and civil society will continue to campaign to seek truth and justice for victims of disappearances and their families. But they cannot be alone in this battle,” said Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) Secretary-General and FIDH Vice-President Rose Trajano. “Lawmakers in the region must continue to push their governments for a swift ratification of the ICPPED and work for the integration of its provisions into domestic law.”

FIDH also calls on all governments of ASEAN member states where cases of enforced disappearances have been reported to extend an invitation to the WGEID for a country visit. The WGEID requested country visits to Indonesia in 2006, Thailand in 2011, and the Philippines in 2013. To date, all three countries have failed to respond.

Press contact:
Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66 88 6117722 (Bangkok)

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