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Opening Address by Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye Director Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division at the third Session of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances

29 October 2012

Monsieur le Président,
Madame, Messieurs les membres distingués du Comité,
Mesdames et Messieurs,

Au nom de la Haut Commissaire aux droits de l'homme, je souhaite vous accueillir à cette troisième session du Comité des disparitions forcées. Etant donné que c'est la première fois que nous nous rencontrons formellement, je veux vous exprimer mes félicitations pour les résultats couronnés de succès du Comité depuis le commencement de son travail, il y a seulement un an.

Votre travail sur la Convention sur les Disparitions forcées attire de plus en plus l’attention de la communauté internationale sur une pratique qui reste d’actualité et à dimension globale. Votre travail comble les lacunes entre l’adoption formelle de la Convention et l’impact concret que ses dispositions peuvent avoir sur la vie de ceux qui ont disparu et de leurs familles, ce qui est d’autant plus important.

Alors que vous commencez votre troisième session, je veux vous assurer de l’engagement de la Haut Commissaire aux droits de l’homme et de son personnel à vous fournir l’assistance nécessaire pour accomplir ces buts. Je saisis l’occasion pour souhaiter la bienvenue à Matias Pellado qui a été affecté à votre service et qui apporte une riche expérience pour avoir précédemment travaillé pour le Groupe de Travail sur les disparitions forcées ou involontaires.

En effet, le bureau de la Haut Commissaire aux droits de l’homme a déjà entrepris plusieurs actions dans les secteurs de priorité que vous avez identifiés.

Members of the Committee,

I understand that three priorities have guided your work, as reported last week to the Third Committee of the General Assembly, namely: to encourage the universal ratification of the Convention; to adopt those technical instruments which will allow you to work effectively and to display the full potential of the Convention; and to cooperate with all relevant organs and mechanisms towards the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances.

Allow me to draw your attention to some of the efforts of this Office to support these priorities. As reported in the annual report of the Secretary-General on the Convention, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continued its efforts in the fight against enforced disappearances and in realizing universal ratification of the Convention under the thematic priorities of “violence and insecurity” and “support for human rights mechanisms”, as set out in its management plan for 2012-2013. Much of the work focused on supporting State efforts to ratify the Convention and included the provision of training and capacity-building assistance to States and civil society, as well as awareness-raising about the Convention. Let me provide you with some examples.

The Human Rights Advisers in Paraguay and Rwanda, the OHCHR regional offices in South America and Middle East and the country offices in Guatemala, Mauritania and Mexico all took steps to encourage the concerned Governments to ratify the Convention and to accept the competence of the Committee. To this end, several consultations were held, conferences, training and workshops organized and, as a result, Peru and Mauritania, two of the countries targeted by those actions, acceded or ratified the Convention during the last month.

Our advocacy efforts have also focused on promoting ratification of this important Convention. The High Commissioner personally encouraged ratification of the Convention during her missions to Guatemala in March 2012, in Pakistan in May 2012 and more recently in Algeria. She also encouraged, in the annual report of her office, Colombia to ratify the Convention which the country did last July.

On the occasion of the second United Nations International Day for the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, on 30 August 2012, OHCHR organized a media campaign through conventional media and social network such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. OHCHR Headquarters and field offices disseminated the press release, which you jointly issued with the Working Group one Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, in English, French and Spanish, together with the text of the Convention and a photo album. The campaign included a call to all readers to lobby for their respective Governments to ratify the Convention.

I am told that the campaign was a success and I am pleased to note in the programme of work of this session that you will have a working meeting with the OHCHR Communication Section to further refine the ratification campaign and envisage the production of other promotional materials as appropriate.

Regarding your second goal to adopt those technical instruments that will allow the Committee to work expeditiously, I was impressed to see that you have swiftly adopted your Rules of Procedure, the Guidelines for state reporting and have also decided on the procedures relating to article 30 on the urgent action requests. I am pleased to inform you that when a State accedes or ratifies the Convention it automatically receives a congratulations letter by Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division with an information package that includes all the documents that you have adopted to ensure that adequate consideration is given to them.

I have noted that during this session you will continue concentrating on the methodology of your work in relation to the consideration of the reports submitted by States parties, which will be a key factor in avoiding the accumulation of backlog witnessed in other Committees. I would therefore encourage you to take full advantage of the suggestions included in the High Commissioner’s report on the treaty bodies strengthening which includes a range of measures that you may wish to consider.

I am happy to see that you will deepen your discussion on the responsibility of States and the role of Non-State Actors in enforced disappearances. You will also initiate two other thematic discussions on trafficking and enforced disappearance and on the principle of non-refoulement, expulsion and extradition under article 16 of the Convention. The choice of those subjects demonstrates your willingness and determination to apply the Convention in the light of a broader viewpoint and with a strong victim perspective. I am sure that you will be successful in maintaining the full focus on victims in your future proceedings as requested by the Convention itself.

Your third goal is to actively cooperate with all relevant mechanisms and instruments, as mandated by article 28 of the Convention. I know that during this session you will meet with some members of the Human Rights Committee, and informally also with some members of the Committee against Torture. You will also have an occasion to interact with some special procedures mandate holders during the thematic discussions and you will hold your second joint meeting with the Working Group. All these occasions of exchange and reflections will constitute a fertile ground for an effective integration of your newly established Committee in the existing human rights system as well as for the actual implementation of the Convention.

I would like to take the opportunity to encourage you to consider the possibility of engaging, in the framework of article 28 of the Convention, with relevant actors, at the national and international levels, dealing with transitional justice processes in States parties to the Convention.

Once again you can count on the full assistance of the Office to help ensure coordination and complementarity between the Secretariats of this Committee and of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. The first concrete step is indeed that you were provided with staff who previously supported the Working Group and who can effectively ensure such cooperation. I can add my personal commitment given as Director of the Division housing the Secretariat of the Working Group.

Chairperson,

This Committee has been exemplary, from its very beginning, in its positive involvement in the treaty body strengthening process by endorsing without hesitation the Dublin II outcome. On behalf of the High Commissioner, I would like to thank you for that. I note that you will continue the discussion on this process with my colleague Ibrahim Salama this afternoon, focusing on how to implement some of the suggestions included in the High Commissioner’s report in your working methods. I encourage you in these discussions.

The Committee has made significant steps in establishing the basic framework for its own work. I can only wish you well for the work ahead of you and for successful session which will constitute another brick in building a system of prevention and protection for the disappeared persons and their families.

Thank you.