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The Working Group and the Committee on Enforced Disappearance

The Commission on Human Rights decided in 2003 to establish an Inter-sessional Open-ended Working Group to elaborate a draft legally binding normative instrument for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance (ISWG). Throughout the three-year negotiation process, over 70 States, as well as numerous NGOs, associations of the families of the disappeared and experts participated in the sessions of the ISWG. The International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances was adopted by the Human Rights Council during its first session in June 2006 and by the General Assembly in December of that same year. On 6 February 2007, the historic opening for signature of the Convention took place in Paris, where 57 countries signed it. The Convention affirms that enforced disappearances constitute a crime against humanity when practiced in a widespread or systematic manner. It creates an obligation for States to make the offence of enforced disappearance punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account its extreme seriousness. The International Convention entered into force on 23 December 2010 and with it the Committee on Enforced Disappearances was established.

Like for many other thematic human rights issues, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances will coexist side by side and collaborate where possible to assist States in their fight against enforced disappearances. This collaboration will take into account that while the competence of the Committee will be limited to those States that have ratified the Convention, the Working Group is able to consider the situation in all countries. While the Committee will be competent to deal with those cases of enforced disappearances which took place after the entry into force of the Convention the Working Group may examine all situations before that.