Committee on Enforced Disappearances
5 November 2012
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning held three separate interactive discussions with States parties, national human rights institutions and international organizations, and with non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders.
Emmanuel Decaux, Chairperson of the Committee, said that everything was in place for the full functioning of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which included the momentum towards the complex process of ratification; good functioning of the Committee; cooperation with its partners, particularly with the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances; relationship with the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture; and contacts with all stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations.
In the ensuing discussion focusing on the Guidelines for State Reporting, States welcomed the opportunity to exchange views with the Committee and asked questions concerning simplified reporting procedures, timely translation of reports, and procedures to deal with urgent requests and communications. Delegations reiterated the importance of synergies between the Committee and the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and asked about the Committee’s position on the proposed joint Guidelines on the division of cases between the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
Japan, Argentina, France, Uruguay, Germany, Mauritania and Thailand took the floor in this discussion.
In the discussion with national human rights institutions and international organizations, the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in its written statement welcomed the paper the Committee was developing on cooperation with the national human rights institutions, and said it should aim at ensuring their most effective participation in all stages of the Committee’s work and process and build on best practices of other treaty bodies.
The International Committee of the Red Cross in its written statement noted the significant role the 101 national committees on the implementation of international humanitarian law established worldwide could and should play in the promotion and implementation of the International Convention. The Council of Europe stressed the interest and openness in working with the Committee in the implementation of the Convention and suggested different ways of cooperating.
In the discussion with non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders, Mr. Decaux stressed the importance of the relationship with non-governmental organizations and associations of victims and their families, whose practical input was needed to ensure the functioning of the Committee. Speakers noted the lack of information and awareness about the Convention and its mechanisms on the ground and asked how the Committee was addressing the low rate of ratification of the Convention among Arab States. With regard to links between trafficking of human beings, particularly children and enforced disappearances, did the Committee establish working links with the special procedures dealing with the issue?
Geneva for Human Rights, Alkarama and International Catholic Child spoke.
The Committee will next meet in public at noon on 6 November, when it will meet with civil society to discuss the methodology of engagement.
Interactive Discussion on the Guidelines for State Reporting
EMMANUEL DECAUX, Committee Chairperson, said that everything was in place for the full functioning of the Committee, including the momentum towards the complex process of ratification and its imposition in domestic legislation. The Committee was functioning well and enjoyed unreserved respect for the Addis Ababa Guidelines on the Independence and Neutrality of Treaty Bodies. Also, the Committee had established good cooperation with its partners, particularly with the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, with which it was developing mechanisms of synergy, information exchange and trust building. The Committee was also developing relationships and cooperation with the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture, and had contacts with all stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations. The Committee was fortunate that it did not have a backlog in State reports it had to deal with and Mr. Decaux expressed hope that States would abide by their reporting obligations as set out in the Convention.
Japan thanked the Committee for organizing this meeting to exchange views with States and said that Japan was supportive of simplified reporting procedures which had already been adopted by other treaty bodies. What was the position of the Committee in this regard?
Responding, the Chairperson said that the Convention, which was a modern document crafted in the twenty-first century, had already taken into account the experiences from other fundamental treaties and that was why there was the obligation of States parties to submit only one report; there would be no second periodic report, but the Committee could always ask for specific information from a State party. Reports should not exceed 60 pages and would be examined in sessions lasting two to three hours, based on discussion questions transmitted to a State well ahead of time, so that State party could prepare.
Argentina welcomed this meeting and said that the Guidelines for Reporting were very useful and helpful. Attention should be paid to avoid long delays between the submission of report and the discussion with State party. Did Committee expect any problems with the timely translation of reports, given the current resource constraints?
The Chairperson said that the Committee aimed to have ten-week delay between the reception of reports and their translation into official languages of the Committee, and their publication on the Committee’s website.
France reiterated the support of France for the working of the Committee and said that the first report of France would be submitted by the end of this year.
Uruguay said that the Convention was a preventive mechanism and presented the commitment of Uruguay to the “never more” approach. Uruguay hoped to meet the Committee next year for a dialogue on the report it had already submitted. Uruguay asked how the Committee had been able to learn from other Committees and from countries to improve on its work, and how the cooperation with the Working Group, which Uruguay deemed extremely important, took place on the ground.
Responding, Mr. Decaux said that there was a gradual approach to State reporting set out by the authors of the Convention; the Committee was harmonizing with other treaty bodies and would have State rapporteurs and structured dialogue with States, but would try to examine reports much faster than other treaty bodies. Mr. Decaux emphasized that the Convention applied only to States parties and this was a pointer towards the division of competence and the cooperation with the Working Group. The two mechanisms were also cooperating on their respective early warning mechanisms to avoid any overlap.
Germany asked whether the Committee already knew how it would work under article 30 and 31 and how it would deal with urgent requests that came to the attention of the Committee.
The Committee had adopted the Guidelines on Urgent Appeals and had forms to be used by those sending a communication to the Committee. The communications were about the Convention as a whole and not about enforced disappearances only; there were in the Convention new obligations incumbent to the States which would require working together on developing appropriate legal response. The Committee did not set a time limit on responding to requests under article 30; this might be changed in future sessions of the Committee.
Mauritania faced its responsibility to protect its population and to ensure security in the whole its territory in the context of terrorism. Mauritania was determined not to violate its international obligations and to ensure respect for the rule of law.
Thailand said it was in the process of ratifying the Convention which it had signed earlier this year and reiterated its commitment to protecting all persons from enforced disappearances. Thailand said that practitioners on the ground had difficulty understanding the differences between the Declaration and the Convention and asked about the view of the Committee on joint Guidelines between the Committee and the Working Group on the division of cases.
In response, the Chairperson said that the work already done by the Working Group on the concept of continuity of crime of enforced disappearances was extremely useful and the Committee would not go back on this gain. The Committee however would not be always merged with the Working Group and each would discharge its responsibilities; what must be done was to ensure that all issues were covered and that nothing fell through the cracks, and that there were no overlaps and stepping on each others’ toes.
Interactive discussion with national human rights institutions and international organizations
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights read out statement on behalf of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, which said that national human rights institutions could be key partners to the treaty bodies system as they could bridge the gap between international and national human rights systems, with a view to strengthening human rights on the ground. The national human rights institutions had a distinct role to play in monitoring the implementation of treaty bodies’ recommendations at the national level and reporting thereon. The International Coordinating Committee welcomed the reference to national human rights institutions in the Committee’s rules of procedures and the paper the Committee was developing on cooperation with national human rights institutions. This paper should take into account the unique role of national human rights institutions and aim at ensuring their most effective participation at all stages of the Committee’s work and process; it should build on best practices of other treaty bodies in the cooperation with national human rights institutions; and should encourage access to national-level actors through increased information-sharing and the use of new technologies such as video-conferencing.
The Chairperson underlined the essential role of national human rights institutions, their encouraging States to ratify the Convention, and their contribution to the understanding of the situation on the ground by the Committee. The Committee depended heavily on national human rights institutions in the implementation of its recommendations through playing a pivotal role in coordinating different bodies.
Committee Expert said that there were three lines of cooperation between national human rights institutions and the Committee, which included the links through the ratification of the Convention by the State. National human rights institutions could also provide information to the Committee which would allow the Committee to have a better idea about the situation in the State party. Finally, the role of national human rights institutions in informing the Committee about the legislation in the State party was essential, particularly concerning the progress in establishing enforced disappearances as a separate crime.
The Secretariat read out a statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which said it was among many who had worked hard on the elaboration and adoption of the Convention, an important milestone in the fight to prevent and eradicate disappearances. The protection against disappearances benefitted from both international human rights law and international humanitarian law which helped prevent persons from going missing in situations of armed conflict or other situations of violence. The International Committee of the Red Cross was pleased to participate in the Committee’s thematic discussions focussing on women and children, and had insisted that any reparation schemes must be based on a thorough assessment of the victim’s needs. The 101 national committees on the implementation of international humanitarian law established worldwide could and should play a significant role in the promotion and implementation of the International Convention.
Council of Europe stressed the interest and openness in working with the Committee in the implementation of the Convention, which should have a positive impact. There were different ways of cooperating: some members of the Committee were familiar with the situation in the 47 States members of the Council of Europe, which should facilitate the preparation of reports; the Council of Europe was familiar with some topical issues taken up by the Committee; the Council of Europe could contribute in establishing and developing best practices.
Committee Expert said it was regrettable that only a small portion of States members of the Council of Europe had ratified the Convention and invited the Council to call upon its members to do so and accept the competence of the Committee.
Interactive discussion with other stakeholders and non-governmental organizations
EMMANUEL DECAUX, Committee Chairperson, said that the Convention was victim-oriented and that was why the relationship with non-governmental organizations and associations of victims and their families was very important to the Committee. If an organization had information on enforced disappearances or had concerns about the situation in the State party, it should convey that to the Committee, who maintained its vigilance and considered the information from non-governmental organizations as front-line. Practical input by the non-governmental organizations was needed to ensure the functioning of the Committee.
Geneva for Human Rights said there was a huge lack of information on the ground concerning the Convention and its mechanism and that important awareness raising must be undertaken and soon. This could create a momentum within civil society and ensure they became interested in the Convention which was forward-looking and contained elements of criminal conviction. The Convention was complex in that it contained elements of criminal law, international human rights law and international humanitarian law and as such required specialized training modules.
The Chairperson said that it had set up a small group of experts together with the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances to provide punctual expertise when needed. The public examination of States reports would be webcast in real time which would enable civil society to follow what was going on in the Committee.
ALKARAMA asked what was being done to encourage ratifications of the Convention, particularly among the Arab States, and what resources were being put into it. Did the Committee already have information about countries due to present their initial report and how it would address the issue of late reports?
Mr. Decaux said that the Committee was putting in a lot of efforts in encouraging the ratification of the Convention; unfortunately, it did not have many resources to dedicate. Workshops or seminars on ratification and adoption of legislation were being done for francophone countries in cooperation with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. In terms of delays in reporting, the Committee would not accept three or four years delays and would check with States to see what could be done to assist preparation of their reports.
Committee Expert stressed the role of civil society in raising awareness about the Convention and about enforced disappearances, which was not very well known as a crime by societies.
Committee Expert thanked the non-governmental organizations for coming and underlined the importance of contacts with them which enabled the Committee to know what was happening on the ground.
Committee Expert said that in Japan, official reports to the Committee were done in English, and their translation caused obstacles for non-governmental organizations.
Committee Expert noted that Arabic and North African world was under-represented in the ratification of the Convention and said that the Committee Experts were interested in participating in regional conferences on the Convention, but could not organize those events themselves.
International Catholic Child Bureau asked whether the Committee would have a fixed agenda for State reporting, for example like in the Universal Periodic Review. With regard to links between trafficking of human beings, particularly children and enforced disappearances, did the Committee have any working links with the special procedures dealing with the issue?
The Chairperson expressed hope that States would be preparing their reports in time and said that the Committee had already started reflection on the issue of trafficking in persons and enforced disappearances. This was a very complex issue and the Committee was weary of diluting the meaning of enforced disappearances.
For use of the information media; not an official record