UK: Families and activists call for an end to disappearances

On the eve of the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August), Amnesty International expressed dismay at the UK Government’s failure to sign a United Nations Convention that could bring justice to thousands of people across the globe. The UK Government is one of only two western European states not to have signed the treaty – the other is Switzerland.

It is estimated that every day four people are 'disappeared'. They are kidnapped, abducted or detained by government agents, then deprived of their liberty without any acknowledgement – their whereabouts remaining unknown and with little hope of justice.

Two families whose relatives had been forcibly taken renewed their demands to find out what has happened to them.

Masood Janjua, a businessman from Rawalpindi 'disappeared' on 30 July 2005 while travelling on a bus to Peshawar with his friend Faisal Faraz. Since then his wife Amina Janjua has pursued the quest to uncover what happened to him.

Speaking to Amnesty International about her husband’s disappearance, Amina Janjua said:

'This is the worst thing to happen to anyone. If someone dies you cry and people console you and after some time you come to terms with it but if someone disappears, you cannot breathe, it is the bitterest of agonies.'

Several people have testified to having seen Masood Janjua in detention, but the authorities continue to deny any knowledge of his whereabouts. He is believed to be one of hundreds of people who have been taken into secret detention by the Pakistan authorities in recent years.

In the North Caucasus Republic of Ingushetia Ibragim Gazdiev was 29 years old when he 'disappeared'. On 8 August 2007 he was reportedly seized by armed men in camouflage. He has not been seen since and his family believes that he is – or was – held incommunicado. The authorities deny that they are holding him. Amnesty International fears that Ibragim Gazdiev is in real danger of being tortured or killed in secret or incommunicado detention.

Speaking to Amnesty International, Ibragim’s father, Mukhmed Gazdiev said:

'I am appealing to the whole world community today … through your protests, demonstrations, mass meetings … if this wave goes through the world, I am sure, or I think it possible that my son will be returned to me.'

Amnesty International is urging both the Pakistani and the Russian governments to reveal the whereabouts of Masood Janjua and Ibragim Gazdiev respectively, to end the ordeal for their families and to ensure that their human rights are being fully respected.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director, Tim Hancock said:

'Can you imagine if your father, mother, husband, wife, daughter or son disappeared without a trace?

'That’s the reality for the likes of Amina Masood Janjua of Pakistan who has not seen her husband for four years, and the Gazdiev family who have not seen Ibragim for more than three years.

'These are just two of hundreds of cases Amnesty International is aware of and today we will be joining forces with human rights groups across the globe to mark their plight.'

The human rights organisation is urging the UK Government to sign up to the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The international treaty would help to end this inhumane practice; it would officially define enforced disappearance and outlaw the practice.

The treaty would also play a major part in counter-terrorism operations In particular it would explicitly implement five out of the six steps Amnesty recommends that the EU adopt to end rendition and secret detention.

The UK was one of the main players in drafting the convention, which makes it even more disappointing that they have so far failed to ratify it.

Tim Hancock continued:

'We are dismayed at the UK Government’s failure to sign this treaty, particularly given that they helped draft it. The Government should see this as an opportunity to draw a line under the extraordinary rendition debate and prevent such practices from carrying out in the future.

'Signing the Convention would also send a very clear message to other countries that enforced disappearances can no longer be tolerated or allowed to go unpunished.'

To mark the Day of the Disappeared Amnesty activists took part in a demonstration led by ‘invisible protestors’ outside Parliament to call on the UK Government to sign the Convention. The 'invisible' two men and two Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights represented the thousands of men and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who are ‘disappeared’ every year around the world.

The UN Convention would, for the first time, give victims and their families a way to seek justice and to bring the perpetrators to trial.

Tim Hancock said:

'We wanted to highlight that every day journalists, human rights activists, religious clerics and politicians are being abducted, removed from their families and everything they know and are being subjected to one of the worst human rights violations.

'They are held incommunicado for years, sometimes for the rest of their lives, and they are tortured and suffer other dreadful treatment.

'It’s time for the international community to act decisively to tackle this heinous human rights abuse and the UK Government must play its part – there is no time to linger.'

Background Notes

1. Photographs of the ‘invisible protestors’ demonstration and Masood Janjua and Ebrima Manneh are available on request
2. The UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances was drafted in December 2006 and has since been signed by 81 countries.
3. Read a complete analysis of Amnesty’s recommendations to the EU to end secret detention and rendition
4. For more information, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/disappeared /p>

ENDS

Amnesty International UK media information:
Eulette Ewart: 020 7033 1547, eulette.ewart@amnesty.org.uk br />Niall Couper: 020 7033 6414, niall.couper@amnesty.org.uk br />Out of hours: 07721 398984, www.amnesty.org.uk /p>

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