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Enforced Disappearances: The Fight for Justice

Video by: Basharat Amin | Article by: Grace Jolliffe

Manzoor Ahmad Dar and Bilal Ahmad Sheikh were allegedly picked up by the Indian army on 30 March 1997. “They were coming back home from work and they were detained.  We also went to the army camp, but they did not allow us,” says Rehmet Begum, Bilal’s mother whose fight for justice has gone on for 22 years now.

Declared as a crime against humanity, an enforced disappearance occurs when people are arrested, detained or abducted against their will by the state, or groups and individuals acting on behalf or, with support from the state; followed by a refusal to disclose the whereabouts of the person. An enforced disappearance violates an individual’s right to liberty, right to freedom from torture, right to a fair trial, right to equal protection and right to presumption of innocence. According to the Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons in Jammu and Kashmir (APDP), there are more than 10,000 cases of such disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir. APDP is a collective of family members who campaign against enforced disappearances and are in search of their loved ones. The government, however, pegs the number of enforced disappearances at 4,000. This discrepancy in the number of enforced disappearances has been highlighted by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in its first ever report on the status of human rights in Kashmir released in June 2018. However, the Indian government rejected the report. India has also been a signatory to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance since 2007 but has not ratified it yet.

Families of those who have been subjected to enforced disappearances are forced to run pillar to post. They suffer economic loss, mental trauma and live with the anguish caused by uncertainty around the whereabouts of their loved ones. Bilal’s mother continues to look for her son to this date. 

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