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Closing Remarks Accession to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Dhaka

, Bangladesh Delivered by Mary Aileen D. Bacalso We have listened to the cry of the families of the disappeared – a cry that speaks of the pain of waiting, the uncertainty of a loved ones’ whereabouts, the agony of the devastating effects of disappearance, the constant fear of the possibility of death. Let us be consoled by what our Latin American sisters and brothers say: “No hay dolor inutil ” or “There is no useless pain. “ What we have been doing here during these last two days and the years of struggle of Odhikar and AFAD manifest our strong will to turn this pain into courage for the attainment of truth, justice, reparation, redress and the reconstruction of the historical memory of the disappeared. We have been discussing on the value of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in our combat against impunity. This international instrument is in itself, a major political victory of families of the disappeared. More than thirty years ago, this Convention was only a seemingly impossible dream of the families of the disappeared in Latin America when they formed their own federation, the FEDEFAM in 1981 in San Jose, Costa Rica. More than thirty years of consistent struggle as enforced disappearances spread globally and as the struggle consequently grew internationally, the United Nations adopted the Convention with an independent monitoring body, the UN CED, to ensure implementation. and ratified by 34, with only 15 States recognizing the competence of

the Committee Against Enforced Disappearances. Much remains to be done. The instrument’s very form and substance belong principally to the families of the disappeared from all nooks and corners of the world, thus making it a very strong instrument for prevention. Owing to the continuing character of the crime, it is also a strong mechanism to resolve cases of the past – revealing the truth; prosecuting perpetrators; providing reparation measures and guaranteeing nonrepetition, thus eradicating this crime of enforced disappearances from the face of the earth. The Convention is a powerful tool for victims to use. The ratification of Bangladesh, being a member of the UN Human Rights Council and which will again be subjected to a next cycle of Universal Periodic Review in May 2013, can accede to this Convention as a fulfilment of its voluntary pledge to cooperate with the UN HR Council in the promotion and protection of human Rights. Doing so would make Bangladesh true to the cry of its people and a very good example for other governments of Asia to imitate. It will go a long way to the eradication of enforced disappearances from the face of the earth. The Convention was a dream 30 years ago. It is now and reality. To further make it a reality, it has to be acceded and implemented universally by all UN Member-States. With this, on behalf of AFAD, which is the focal point of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances, we reiterate our call to the government of Bangladesh to investigate cases of enforced disappearances; stop cases of enforced disappearances and sign and ratify without delay the International

Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. We are aware that signing and ratification of the Convention alone are not enough. But it is a huge step, a strong expression of commitment not to repeat the same crime. Campaigning for the Convention has to be complemented with other interventions by organizations of families of the disappeared, hand in hand with civil society, through organizing and empowerment, documentation and search for the disappeared preferably alive; public information dissemination, campaign and filing cases in court to attain truth and justice and to guarantee nonrepetition. After more than 30 years since the dark years of dictatorship in Argentina, the mothers, grandmothers of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo continue to search for their disappeared loved ones. In their 80s and 90s, they continue to march every Thursday afternoon in front of Casa Rosada shouting that their loved ones were taken from them alive and they want them returned alive. After thirty years, they garner small and big victories. They found some of their disappeared grandchildren alive and reunited them with their biological families, thus enabling them to know their historical identity. They were able to assert the prosecution of perpetrators; concretely among many examples, in the prosecution of 9 military commanders convicted with the crime of enforced disappearance. They continue to bring cases to court to break the cycle of impunity so that in so doing, their SLOGAN, never again, will indeed become a concrete reality. This exemplary struggle is an important source of inspiration for us here in Bangladesh and in many parts of Asia to imitate.

The Convention that was once a dream must be turned into a reality. Happy indeed, are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the prize to make this dream come true. May I end by saying that in the strength of our solidarity, we shall overcome.