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The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances concludes its visit to the Republic of the Congo

BRAZZAVILLE (3 October 2011) – A delegation of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, composed of Mr. Olivier de Frouville and Mr. Osman El-Hajjé, visited the Republic of the Congo from 24 September to 3 October 2011, to learn about the country’s efforts in dealing with the issue of enforced disappearances, including how it is addressing cases of enforced disappearances which occurred in the past.*

“The harm caused to civilians by the conflict that affected the country during the 1990s is far from being healed. In particular, families still want to know the truth about what happened to their relatives, victims of enforced disappearances. The right to know the truth about the fate of a victim of enforced disappearance is an absolute right” the experts said.

In the context of this conflict, thousands of Congolese civilians fled, seeking safety and peace within the country or beyond the borders of their State. It was reported that, in 1999, enforced disappearances were perpetrated against refugees who were returning in the country.

One specific episode, known as “the disappeared of the Beach”, which occurred at the river port of Brazzaville, was the object in 2005 of a trial after which the defendants, senior officials of various State security services, were acquitted. “We regret that the judicial process could not lead to the identification and punishment of those responsible for enforced disappearances” the experts said.

However, recognizing that the State was responsible for not ensuring the safety of its citizens, some of the families of the disappeared persons were awarded compensation in the trial: “this compensation should be supplemented by other forms of reparation, including psychological and social assistance to families often plunged into serious difficulties due to the disappearance of their relatives”.

During the visit the Working Group visited Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, and met with several authorities, civil society organizations, relatives of disappeared persons, and representatives of UN agencies and other international organizations.

The preliminary findings and recommendations of the Working Group will be developed in detail in the report to be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2012.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11462&LangID=E

The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa), the Vice-Chair is Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France), and the other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon).

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.

For more information on the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Congo: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CGIndex.aspx

For further information on the mission and media requests, please write to wgeid@ohchr.org

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