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Greens call to protect people from being forcibly "disappeared"

Media Release
Christine Milne 30 Aug 2014

On the UN's International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne says Australia must step up to help.

"State-sanctioned disappearance is a widespread problem in our region and Australia needs to actively participate in improving this horrible situation," said Senator Milne.

"It's shocking that recent UN figures show the Philippines, Nepal, Timor Leste, India and Indonesia each have hundreds of reviewed and outstanding cases.

"In Sri Lanka the problem is most prolific, with the UN aware of over 5000 cases. Still, the Sri Lankan Government is unwilling to investigate these crimes.

"Journalists and human rights advocates are known to have been victims of enforced disappearance in Sri Lanka, with the widespread nature of the problem detailed in reports from reputable NGOs.

"I'd highlight the case of prominent Lao youth education leader Sombath Somphone, who was forcibly disappeared in 2012 and whose whereabouts is still unknown. The Greens are deeply concerned that this investigation has
not progressed, and urge the Lao government to undertake an immediate and credible investigation.

"I urge the Australian Government to acknowledge that enforced disappearances are occurring in our region, including in Sri Lanka and Laos.

"These are tragic human rights abuses, and it is despicable that the Abbott government refuses to speak out and continues to send asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka," said Senator Milne

The United Nations Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance says: Enforced disappearance is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by the refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.

In the 2012 annual report of the UN working group, among other Asian nations, Sri Lanka accounted for 5,676 "reviewed and outstanding" cases, the Philippines 621, Nepal 458, Timor Leste 428, India 353, Indonesia 162, Pakistan 99, Thailand 71, China 30 and North Korea 20.

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