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Libya: wave of enforced disappearances may amount to a crime against humanity, warns UN expert body

GENEVA (24 March 2011)– The UN Working Group* on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances expressed deep concern about allegations received, according to which hundreds of enforced disappearances have been committed over the last few months in Libya.

“Enforced disappearances may amount to a crime against humanity when perpetrated in certain circumstances,” warned the UN body recalling its general comment on the issue.

The Working Group is concerned that, according to the information received, hundreds of persons have been taken to undisclosed locations where they might have been submitted to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or executed. In most of the cases reported, the fate and the whereabouts of these persons are still unknown.

“Any person alleged to have perpetrated an act of enforced disappearance in a particular State shall, when the facts disclosed by an official investigation so warrant, be brought before the competent civil authorities of that State for the purpose of prosecution and trial,” recalled the independent experts quoting article 14 of the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The Working Group has been closely monitoring the situation in Libya and other countries in the region and calls upon all States to eradicate the practice of enforced disappearance. The UN expert body remains at the disposal of all States to assist them in taking positive steps to this end.

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. It 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).

For more information on the WGEID, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/index.htm

Check the WGEID’s “General comment on enforced disappearances as a crime against humanity”:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/docs/GCas_crime_against_humanity.pdf

To learn more on how to submit cases to the WGEID, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/docs/How_to_use_the_WGEID.pdf

OHCHR Country Page – Libya: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/LYIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Nikolaus Schultz (Tel. +41 22 917 94 02 / email: nschultz@ohchr.org)