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Joint Statement by UN expert bodies on enforced disappearances

NEW YORK (25 October 2012) - The Chairs of two United Nations expert bodies working on the issue of enforced disappearance addressed today the General Assembly.

The Chair of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, Emmanuel Decaux, has told the General Assembly that the universal ratification and full implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance should be a collective goal. He welcomed the commitment of the 36 States Parties and the contribution of all the stakeholders, in particular, of the associations of families of disappeared persons and civil society at large.

Presenting the first report of the Committee to the General Assembly, the Chair listed its three main priorities: to react to urgent appeals requesting to find disappeared persons, and other individual communications, in an effective way with the aim of protecting victims and their relatives; to respond to the reports of States parties due within two years in a rapid and innovative way; and to interact with other mechanisms within the UN system, as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and treaty-bodies to ensure coherence in their jurisprudence.

“I believe that while the members of the Committee are the guardians of the Convention, it is now the common responsibility of all concerned to implement it so that the Convention can finally bear fruit after a 30-year struggle carried out by the relatives of the disappeared persons and NGOs for its entry into force”, he said.

In the year of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Olivier de Frouville, underlined that there are more than 42,000 cases still pending before the Working Group. “The Working Group is grateful for the cooperation received from a number of States, which is indispensable for discovering the fate and whereabouts of disappeared persons around the globe. Nevertheless, it remains concerned that of more than 80 States with outstanding cases, some States have never replied to the Working Group’s communications while others provide responses that do not contain relevant information”, he stressed.

Mr. de Frouville, noting that enforced disappearances regrettably continues to be used by some States as a tool to deal with situations of conflict or internal unrest, further underscored the underreporting of disappearance cases in all regions of the world. “This phenomenon occurs for various reasons, including fear of reprisals, ineffective reporting channels, restrictions on the work of civil society, and, unfortunately, a lack of awareness about the Working Group and its mandate”, he added. Mr de Frouville also noted with concern a pattern of threats, intimidation and reprisals against victims of enforced disappearances, including family members, witnesses and human rights defenders who untiringly work to know the fate or whereabouts of disappeared persons. “The Working Group calls upon States to take specific measures to prevent such acts and protect those working on cases of enforced disappearances”, he concluded.

“The work of our two bodies is complementary and mutually reinforcing. We are committed to join our forces to prevent and combat enforced disappearances and to help families to achieve truth and justice”, concluded the United Nations experts.


The Committee on enforced disappearances was established in 2011 following the entering into force of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance . The Committee can be seized with requests that a disappeared person should be sought and found as a matter of urgency and can receive complaints from individuals who claim to be victims of violations of the rights protected by the Convention. The requests for urgent action may only be received if the enforced disappearance has occurred in a country that is a State Party to the Convention. The complaints can be received from the date in which the State Party has recognized the competence of the Committee to do so. For more information on the Committee, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CED/Pages/CEDIndex.aspx

The Committee is comprised of ten independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair of the Committee is Mr. Emmanuel Decaux (France), and other Expert-members are Mr. Mohammed Al-Obaidi (Iraq), Mr. Mamadou Badio Camara (Senegal), Mr. Alvaro Garcé García Y Santos (Uruguay), Mr. Luciano Hazan (Argentina), Mr. Rainer Huhle (Germany), Ms. Suela Janina (Albania), Mr. Juan Josè López Ortega (Spain), Mr. Enoch Mulembe (Zambia) and Mr. Kimio Yakushiji (Japan).

UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disappearance-convention.htm

For more information and media requests on the Committee on enforced disappearances, please contact Maria Giovanna Bianchi (Tel: +41 22 917 9189 / email: mgbianchi@ohchr.org) or write to ced@ohchr.org

The Working Group was established by the UN 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 are 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. For more information on the Working Group, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx

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

UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disappearance.htm

For more information and media requests on the Working Group, please contact Ugo Cedrangolo (Tel.: +41 22 917 9286 / email: ucedrangolo@ohchr.org) or write to wgeid@ohchr.org