LAHORE - The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances was marked on Thursday.  Tweeterati used the social networking with #EnforcedDisappearances and #DhunKarLao hashtags.

According to the National Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, there are 1,815 pending cases of enforced disappearances across the country.  According to NCIED data, cases received up to May 31, 2018 were 5,177 and cases received during June 2018 were 36.

The commission held 537 proceedings/hearings during June 2018, 204 in Islamabad, 169 in Karachi, 73 in Lahore and 91 in Quetta.

To mark International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) organised a seminar followed by a protest at Liberty Roundabout.

The HRCP urged the government to criminalise enforced disappearances.  The commission said: “Even as we express solidarity with forcibly ‘disappeared’ people and with their friends and families, it is worth reminding ourselves exactly why the phrase ‘missing person’ is a gross understatement in terms of human rights.

“An enforced disappearance implies the absence of the right to liberty, security and life. It means having no guarantee whatsoever of the right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment. It puts the person entirely out of reach of the right to a fair trial or effective remedy. For victims’ families and friends – and indeed for the public – it excludes the right to know the truth of the circumstances of the disappearance.

That we have no reliable estimates of the number of people in this position – given the enormous discrepancy between official estimates and reports on the ground – is a chilling reminder of why the state cannot afford to stall this issue. “

The HRCP demanded the government take immediate steps to criminalise enforced disappearances under the penal code and replace the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances with a judicial tribunal answerable to the Supreme Court.

The findings of the 2010 Judicial Commission on Enforced Disappearances must be made public and implemented. It is also high time that Pakistan ratify the International Convention to Protect All Persons against Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance, and engage productively with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances’ According to HRCP.

It is pertinent to mention here that, Pakistan is signatory to international conventions. Last year, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Universal Periodic Review outcome on Pakistan. Raza Khan, a peace activist also returned back to his family this year after seven months and human rights activists termed it a positive sign in improving human rights situation in Pakistan.

United Nations on 21 December 2010, by its resolution 65/209 decided to declare 30 August the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, to be observed beginning in 2011. It also passed International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and

UN General Assembly at the time of adoption of resolution expressed its deep concern about the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world, including arrest, detention and abduction.

According to UN statistics, since 1999 in Kosovo more than 6,000 people have been registered as missing and stated “Enforced disappearance has frequently been used as a strategy to spread terror within the society.”  Enforced disappearance also includes ongoing harassment of human rights defenders, relatives of victims, witnesses and legal counsel dealing with cases of enforced disappearance.