International Day of the Disappeared

Family members pass by silhouettes of the missing. The third silhouette from right represents the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet. (Marco Okhuizen)

As part of ICT’s efforts to highlight the case of the missing 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, ICT has participated in a public action and press briefing organized by a coalition of NGOs in The Netherlands to mark the International Day of the Disappeared.

The 6-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family were taken from their home by Chinese authorities in May 1995, just a few days after Nyima was recognized as Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama. The Panchen Lama and his family have not been seen since, despite numerous requests for access by the UN and national governments.

Relatives of disappeared persons from Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Algeria, Morocco, India/Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Turkey, the Philippines, Belarus and Chechnya gathered in front of the Dutch Parliament and delivered a petition to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee urging them to call on the Dutch Government to take an active stand on the draft UN Convention against Enforced Disappearances. The petition was signed by 37 organizations of families of the disappeared from all over the world and the over 120 NGOs supporting them.

The families and NGOs are demanding a strong, effective convention on enforced disappearances with its own independent monitoring body, rather than an additional protocol to the existing UN International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. The current draft UN Convention against Enforced Disappearances will be debated in the UN General Assembly in New York between 12th – 23rd September.

Ms Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of ICT Europe, explained ICT’s involvement:

“It is extremely humbling to hear the stories of the many families and organizations still seeking answers about those who have been taken from them, and I was reminded of the case of the young Panchen Lama, who has now spent 10 years in some form of detention. His situation and the many other cases I have heard today are tragic examples of how some governments continue to disregard fundamental human rights in the cynical pursuit of their political aims.”

In September China must report to the UN on the rights of children in China and Tibet.