New Convention on Enforced Disappearance entered into force, but much remains to be done – UN expert body
Last 23th December, 2010, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances welcomed the entry into force of the International Convention* for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. “The entry into force of the Convention is a new and important step in the right direction. But it is not enough,” warned the five independent experts.
“On this important occasion,” they said, “we urge States to make all possible efforts to prevent and eradicate the heinous practice of enforced disappearance and to bring to justice all those believed to be responsible for the crime; refrain from any act of intimidation or reprisals against those persons who contribute to the eradication of the practice; and take effective measures to realize the rights to truth, justice and reparation.”
Enforced disappearance is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.
“The Convention breaks new ground in the fight against the scourge of enforced disappearances,” the expert body said. “It includes for the first time in a treaty the right of any person not to be subjected to enforced disappearance. The Convention recognizes the right of all the persons affected by enforced disappearance to know the truth about the circumstances of this crime, the progress and results of the investigation and the fate of the disappeared person.”
States that ratify the Convention commit themselves to conduct investigations to locate the disappeared person, to prosecute those responsible and to ensure reparations for survivors and their families. “This is a momentous step, a day that has been looked forward to by many in all parts of the world, including families of those who have disappeared.”
“Despite this important step, we condemn the fact that enforced disappearances continue to occur all over the world,” the independent experts said. “As recent as our last session, the Working Group examined newly-submitted cases of enforced disappearances and information on previously accepted cases from more than 40 countries from all the regions of the world. We still see secret detention facilities, kidnappings and abductions by States agents against political dissenters and persons accused of terrorism, harassment against relatives of people disappeared, and widespread impunity.”
“We congratulate the 21 States** that have ratified the Convention and reiterate our call upon all Governments that have not ratified the Convention to do so as soon as possible, and to accept the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider individual and inter-State communications of the Convention, when ratifying it,” the Working Group said.
How States abide by their obligations under the Convention will be monitored by a panel, to be known as the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. This independent and impartial treaty body will monitor implementation of the Convention and can receive complaints from or on behalf of victims when the national authorities fail to fulfill their obligations.
The Working Group was established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group’s humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established. The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. The Working Group also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa) and the other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitkzy (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon) and Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France).
(*) International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disappearance-convention.htm
(**) Albania, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Senegal, Spain and Uruguay.
For more information on the WGEID, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/index.htm