Remembering The Disappeared

Amnesty International condemns all enforced disappearances as crimes under international law.  And on August 30, we’ll be doing something about them.

Sandya Eknaligoda

Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, Sri Lanka, 10 January 2011

An enforced disappearance occurs when a person is arrested or abducted by the state or agents of the state, who then deny that the person is being held or conceal their whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law.

Enforced disappearances take place around in the world, including in countries such as China, Nepal, Chad, Sri Lanka and North Korea.  In Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of enforced disappearances occurred during decades of civil conflict on the island.  One recent example is the journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who went missing after work on Jan. 24, 2010.


Hundreds Disappeared, Killed and Tortured in Gambia

On Friday 22 July, thousands of activists from 14 different countries worldwide will come together to raise awareness of the deteriorating human rights situation in Gambia.

The demonstrations will happen on a public holiday that President Jammeh created to honour himself.

The global demonstrations coincide with a national holiday called ‘Freedom Day’ that current Gambian president Yahya Jammeh created to commemorate the day he assumed power in 1994.

Even though ‘Freedom Day’ is around the corner, that didn’t stop Gambia’s government from charging former Gambia Press Union President Ndey Tapha Sosseh and four other activists this week on trumped up charges of treason.


Pakistani Journalist Disappeared and Found Dead After Criticizing Armed Forces

As many of us were eating hot dogs, tending BBQs and watching fireworks to honor our fundamental freedoms, seven words in the New York Times caught my eye, “Pakistan’s spies tied to slaying of journalist“.  Seven words among the several thousand that pass my eyes every day before I even reach for a cup of coffee, that made me think about the Constitution, and the struggle for human rights.

A forty year old journalist, Saleem Shazad, disappeared on May 29, after writing an exposé of an attack on a Pakistani military base which indicated collusion from inside the armed forces.  Shazad’s body was found in a canal 60 miles from Islamabad.  “Mr. Shahzad suffered 17 lacerated wounds delivered by a blunt instrument, a ruptured liver and two broken ribs, said Dr. Mohammed Farrukh Kamal, one of the three physicians who conducted the post-mortem.”, according to the Times, which said he was the 37th journalist to be killed in Pakistan since 9/11.

The Obama Administration believes that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence directed the attack on him to silence his criticism. The Administration called the treatment of Shazad “barbaric”.  Yet, if anyone is in any doubt Pakistan is a crucial ally of the United States and a democratic state.  It remains the single most important regional country in the struggle against Al Qaeda, and the recipient of more than 20 billion dollars of US assistance since 9/11. These were not the crazed acts of frenzied tribesmen, they were the deliberate calculated acts of agents employed by the state.


Urgent Action Network: Saving Lives Through Fast Action

“Please act as quickly as possible. This may be crucial in locating Professor Rossi, or even in helping to save his life.  Others have disappeared in this manner, and never been found again…We must do all we can to prevent another similar case.”

Professor Luiz Basilio Rossi

Those were the closing words of a brief but urgent message received by Amnesty International supporters on March 19, 1973. It was the first-ever Urgent Action, issued on behalf of Professor Luiz Basilio Rossi, who had disappeared after his arrest on February 15th, 1973 in São Paulo, Brazil.

A prisoner of conscience in Brazil under the military regime, then a human rights activist – his story has set a powerful model for the tens of thousands of Urgent Actions that have followed. It was not until the letters started to pour in that Rossi’s relatives were allowed to visit him. Although many people taken into police custody were never seen again, Rossi was eventually freed in October 1973.


Don't Forget the Disappeared in Sri Lanka

Today is August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared, observed by Amnesty International and other human rights groups to remember victims of “enforced disappearance”  around the world and to press for justice for them and their families.  An “enforced disappearance”  occurs when agents of the state detain someone and the state then denies any knowledge of the person’s status or whereabouts.   Over the past several decades, Sri Lanka has experienced tens of thousands of enforced disappearances, the vast majority of which remain unresolved.  One recent example is that of the journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who went missing shortly after leaving work on Jan. 24.  Please write the Sri Lankan government and ask them to conduct an effective investigation into Mr. Eknaligoda’s disappearance and make the results public.  Please also work to get the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted.  Thanks.

Global Day of Action for Sri Lankan Journalist

Next  Tuesday, August 10, will be the 200th day since the Sri Lankan journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda went missing after work.  Amnesty International and other organizations have been calling on the Sri Lankan government to investigate his disappearance.  In Sri Lanka, the Alliance of Media Organizations (Alliance) will mark this day by holding a protest and a seminar.  The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is asking its affiliates to support the protest by contacting Sri Lankan embassies around the world on Tuesday to express concern over his disappearance.

Amnesty supports these actions by the Alliance and IFJ.  Please join in this day of action by doing the following on Tuesday, August 10:

1. Send an online letter to the Sri Lankan government asking them to effectively investigate Prageeth Eknaligoda’s disappearance, make the results public and hold accountable those responsible for his disappearance.

2. Call the Sri Lankan embassy in your country and express concern about his disappearance (in the U.S., the Sri Lankan Embassy‘s phone number is 202-483-4025).

It’s long past time for the Sri Lankan government to provide justice for him and his family.  With your help, we may see it happen.

Six months later, no sign of missing cartoonist

On Mar. 11, I wrote on this site about Prageeth Eknaligoda, the Sri Lankan journalist and cartoonist.  He’s been missing since leaving work on Jan. 24.  Amnesty Interrnational and other organizations (like the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders) have all expressed concern and have called on the Sri Lankan government to investigate his disappearance.

Well, it’s been six months since he disappeared and we haven’t seen any evidence of an effective investigation so far.  His wife, Sandhya Eknaligoda, has repeatedly said she holds the government responsible.  This past Saturday, she reportedly went to a famous Hindu temple and prayed for help in finding her husband, having lost faith in the Sri Lankan legal process.

The Sri Lankan government needs to live up to its responsibility here.  Please write to the government and ask that it conduct a proper, effective investigation into his disappearance and hold accountable those found responsible.  Thanks.

Remember the disappeared in Sri Lanka

Today, Aug. 30, is the International Day of the Disappeared, observed by Amnesty International and other human rights groups around the word to remember the disappeared and to press for justice for the victims of enforced disappearance and their families.  An “enforced disappearance” occurs when agents of the state arrest a person and the state then denies any knowledge of the person’s status or whereabouts.  Over the past several decades, Sri Lanka has experienced tens of thousands of enforced disappearances, most of which remain unresolved.  Most of those responsible for these enforced disappearances have never been held accountable.  Please remember the disappeared today, especially those in Sri Lanka, and help to get the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted.