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Forced disappearances: Time for India to ratify the Convention

The half-widows of Kashmir: Mothers of 'the misssing' protest in Pratap Park Lal chowk, Srinagar. Photo: Aliya Bashir / Women's News Network

On Wednesday, Iraq deposited the 20th instrument of ratification for the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances to the Secretary General of the United Nations. What this meant was that the Convention will enter into force on December 23, 30 days after the 20th accession or ratification.

The text was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2006 and opened for signature on February 6, 2007. So far 87 States have signed, and 20 have ratified it. India was among the first countries to sign, but is yet to ratify the Convention.

Ratifying the Convention would be significant. There are thousands of families in this country, especially those in Assam, Kashmir, Manipur and Punjab, who have been crying for justice. What's most tragic about disappearances is that with the person(s), the news of them disappear too. Most forced disappearances, needless to say, are the handiwork of State agencies.

Says Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary-General, "However, we are still a long way from banishing this widespread practice to history. Although the 20 ratifications mark a milestone for the implementation of the Convention, almost 90 per cent of the international community have yet to commit themselves to tackling enforced disappearances"

"This development in the international arena is indeed a reason for celebration. It equally requires redoubling of commitment of all parties to end this despicable crime against humanity. Its value is concrete and practical and depends largely on the sustained efforts of victims’ families, NGOs, governments, the UN and its new committee to use the instrument to hold violators accountable, to prevent recurrence and to deter future violations," says the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED).

Indeed.

It is also, indeed, surprising that no Indian organisation is a member of this coalition, for instance. That doesn't imply that there is no Indian organisation which fights for these issues. There are those like the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), for instance. And also more localised human rights organisations in states where extra-judicial executions have been or are even now the order of the day. But these efforts, on the whole, are piecemeal and definitely not a concerted bid. What is needed are more coordinated efforts.

The trauma of those whose kin have disappeared in Assam, Kashmir, Manipur and Punjab is untold. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss; it is callousness.

 
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