Campaigning for truth and justice
by: Marjan Lucas
Before engaging in support to the lobby for truth & justice of the families of the disappeared in Kashmir, I was working – for over a decade – with the survivors of the Srebrenica-genocide of 1995 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Anno 2012, so almost two decades after the war in Bosnia, most of the ca. 10.000 disappeared and killed persons have been identified by name, place of birth, sex and age, profession and hobbies. Years before, their remains were dumped in, and revealed from mass graves on the slopes of Bosnian forests but their families could finally bury them in the cemetery of Potocari, close the small town of Srebrenica and in the region where the massacre took place in 1995, despite UN surveillance. The Potocari Cemetery is nowadays an open-air-memorial-centre: a place to mourn the dead, and to reconcile the living.
Families of the Bosnian disappeared persons persisted in their struggle for truth and justice despite political discouragement, if not harsh obstruction, by national and international power enters. However, international donors, e.g. the Dutch government, granted millions of dollars to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) for DNA analyses to identify of the remains of the victims in Srebrenica and set up judicial investigations. The survivors’ truth- & justice campaign did produce results indeed.
The Kashmiri families of the disappeared, organised in local NGO’s as e.g. the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), show a likewise persistence and courage in their own specific struggle for justice and truth. Kashmiri human rights defenders and civil society activists reported to have revealed 2.000 unmarked graves, in detail described in ‘Buried Evidence ‘(2009) and ‘Facts Underground’ (2008). They want the remains in these unmarked graves to be identified and to analyse if, and if yes how many, of these corpses are the remains of the 8.000 enforced disappeared as previously registered by lawyers as Advocate Parvez Imroz c.s.
And yes, of course: the plight of the Bosnian victims is a different story then the one of the relatives of the enforced disappeared persons in Kashmir. But what is similar for all of them is their need to know the truth and that perpetrators of crimes will not be simply set free. And that a past and presence of fear and injustice, can be transformed in a future of justice and peace.
But, how far from that future are the Kashmiri i.c. the families of the disappeared and the human rights defenders who revealed the mass graves? A milestone is that India acknowledges indeed the existence of the thousands of bodies in the thousands of unmarked graves. However: India strongly refuses identification. Why? What does India fear for? And can Europe play a role? This week here in Brussels, a seminar is planned to elaborate on this issue.
Let’s meet again then.
As for now, I wish you well and hope (and am sure) you enjoy this unique event!