Statement by UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances on the occasion of its 30th Anniversary


26 February 2010

Geneva: The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances commemorates its 30th Anniversary during 2010. On this occasion, the Working Group reiterates its commitment to, and solidarity with, those who were, or still are, subjected to an enforced disappearance and their families.

The Working Group was established by resolution 20 (XXXVI), of 29 February 1980, of the former Commission on Human Rights “to examine questions relevant to enforced or involuntary disappearances of persons.” It was the first United Nations human rights thematic special procedure established with a universal mandate. Since then, the Working Group has dealt with more than 50,000 cases in 80 countries from all parts of the world.

During its thirty years of existence, the Working Group has been able to comply with its humanitarian mandate to help families ascertain the fate or whereabouts of their disappeared family members. It has also contributed to the prevention and eradication of the horrendous practice of enforced disappearance across the globe. Unfortunately, only about 20 per cent of those cases have been clarified. Nevertheless, the extent to which the Working Group, through its patient and persistent efforts with the Government concerned, may have prevented more disappearances from occurring cannot be quantified.

The Working Group acknowledges that its work could not be carried out without the work of the many relatives of victims, human rights defenders, non-governmental organizations, lawyers and others individuals who untiringly work to know the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared in very adverse circumstances on all continents. On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, the Working Group would like to thank them and pay tribute to them. It also extends its appreciation to those States which have cooperated with the Working Group to resolve cases of enforced disappearances.

The Working Group deplores the fact that enforced disappearances continue to occur. Indeed, while the Working Group receives information of a few cases of disappearance per week, the vast majority of cases, for different reasons including ignorance about the procedure or fear of reprisals, are not submitted for its consideration. The Working Group calls upon States to promote and give full effect to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. It also urges the United Nations to proclaim 30 August United Nations International Day of the Disappeared, so as to raise awareness about enforced disappearances.

On this occasion, the Working Group reiterates its call to States to undertake 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 fight against impunity.

The Working Group notes with satisfaction that 18 States have ratified the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance and that only two ratifications are required for its entry into force. The Working Group reiterates its calls to States that have not signed and/or ratified the Convention to do so as soon as possible. It also calls upon States when ratifying the Convention to accept the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances under article 31 so that it may deal with individual complaints and the inter-State complaint mechanism under article 32 of the Convention. The Working Group is convinced that the entry into force of the Convention will strengthen Governments’ capacities to reduce the number of disappearances. It will also bolster the hopes and the demands for justice and truth by victims and their families.

The Working Group plans to commemorate its 30th anniversary with a series of events and activities that will take place throughout the year. The first event will be held on 18 March 2010, in Geneva, in parallel to the 13th session of the Human Rights Council. Information on the events will be available on the Working Group’s website, which can be found at http://www2.ohchr.org/English/issues/disappear/index.htm.

The Working Group was established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate or whereabouts of disappeared relatives. The Working Group 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 is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa), and the other Expert-Members are Mr. Santiago Corcuera (Mexico), Mr. Darko Göttlicher (Croatia), Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France) and Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon).

For more information on the WGEID, please refer to the web site: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/index.htm

Fact sheet no. 6 on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances available in Arabic, Chinese, French, English Russian and Spanish at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/PublicationsResources/Pages/FactSheets.aspx

Declaration on the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disappearance.htm Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to the Human Rights Council, 21 December 2009:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/13session/A-HRC-13-31_AEV.pdf

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