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Commemoration of International Day of the disappeared

Khulumani Support Group in collaboration with the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities will commemorate INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE ?DISAPPEARED? with a public discussion on Graves and Burial Sites as Spaces of Cultural and Religious Significance & their Implications for Families of Persons who ?Disappeared? in the 1st Floor Seminar Room of the CRL Rights Commission in the West Wing of the Women?s Gaol at Constitution Hill.

Khulumani Support Group in collaboration with the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities will commemorate INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE ?DISAPPEARED? with a public discussion on Graves and Burial Sites as Spaces of Cultural and Religious Significance & their Implications for Families of Persons who ?Disappeared? in the 1st Floor Seminar Room of the CRL Rights Commission in the West Wing of the Women?s Gaol at Constitution Hill.

The seminar will review challenges related to access to and the protection of burial sites and graves with participating stakeholders from various institutions and government departments. One such site is Vlakplaas outside Erasmia in Tshwane Municipality, from which the apartheid ?death squads? operated over many years and where numerous victims of these activities are assumed to have been buried. On August 16, 2007, the Department of Science and Technology announced that a National Centre for Healing would be erected at Vlakplaas.

While Khulumani Support Group unreservedly supports the facilitation of the healing of the nation, we are concerned that those most affected by the activities of the Vlakplaas ?death squads? have not been involved in these decision-making processes. Khulumani believes that plans for Vlakplaas should take cognisance of the fact that it represents the ?Auschwitz? of South Africa and that those families affected by the mysterious disappearance of a loved one, have particular concerns related to the plans for the site. For Khulumani, International Day of the ?Disappeared? provides an opportunity to open a public debate about Vlakplaas and other similar sites of memory and commemoration.

As a membership organisation of victims and survivors of apartheid gross human rights violations, Khulumani works tirelessly for the resolution of the cases of several hundred members affected by the mysterious disappearance of loved ones during apartheid. Khulumani remembers and honours those who struggled to achieve the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, a struggle that was driven by families of victims of forced disappearances.

Khulumani values the fact that the treaty recognises the right of persons not to be subjected to forced disappearance; that it requires states to prohibit this practice under their national laws; and that it has an implementing committee that has both the mandate and the capacity to deal with urgent appeals.

While the adoption of the treaty represented a victory in the global fight against forced disappearances and for the protection of victims and their families, the phenomenon of forced disappearances has sadly continued with nations that used to pride themselves on their human rights records, being involved in the perpetration of forcd disappearances.

On International Day of the Disappeared, Khulumani Support Group pays homage to families of the disappeared and commits to supporting them with courage and hope towards the resolution of this ?unfinished business?. Khulumani will launch its series of storyboards about its work with families of the disappeared at the event. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Issued by Dr Marjorie Jobson, Acting Director, Khulumani Support Group

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