India refuses entry to Philippines activist

Agency blames decision on her work on enforced disappearances
India refuses entry to Philippines activist

Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso receives the Emilio Mignone International Human Rights Prize from Argentina's Foreign Relations Minister Hector Timmerman in December 2013. (Photo courtesy of Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso)

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) has criticized the Indian government after the Filipino rights activist Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso was refused entry into the country earlier this week.

Bacalso, AFAD secretary-general and a key figure in the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances, was prevented from entering India on Sunday.

According to the Indian Express website, Bacalso admitted not having a visa for India but said she was told by the Indian embassy in Manila she could apply for one on arrival.

Speaking to ucanews.com in Manila on Thursday, Bacalso said she was prevented from entering the country "because of my work on enforced disappearances and my statements about the mass graves and the persecution of human rights defenders in Kashmir".

She said nine Indian officials accosted her upon arrival at Mumbai International Airport "and asked me when was the last time I visited India... and 'what had happened then’."

Bacalso was last in India in November 2009, a month before the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, a member organization of AFAD, released a report on unmarked graves and mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir.

More than 8,000 people in Jammu and Kashmir were reportedly subjected to enforced disappearances, according to the report. About 7,000 unmarked graves and mass graves have so far been identified.

Bacalso, a recipient of various international awards for her human rights work, said "India, which claims to be a bastion of democracy, punished me for my work against enforced disappearances."

She described the incidents of enforced disappearances in Kashmir as a "phenomenon, which is anathema to democracy."

The AFAD released a statement on Monday criticizing India for denying Bacalso entry.

"India, despite being the largest democracy, has consistently behaved like a rigid anti-human rights country without any respect and concern to allow human rights groups to work unhindered in Jammu and Kashmir," the statement said.

"This ban on AFAD representatives... shows the deep paranoia and hostility of the Indian government towards human rights activists," the statement said, adding that the ban appears to isolate human rights activists from Jammu and Kashmir.

AFAD is a federation of human rights organizations working directly on the issue of involuntary disappearances in Asia. 

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