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Committee on Enforced Disappearances opens fifth session

4 November 2013

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning opened its fifth session, hearing statements by Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Emmanuel Decaux, Chairperson of the Committee, and adopting its agenda and programme of work.

Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance represented a legal tool that stemmed from the united voice of people directly affected by the issue in an attempt to realise the vision of a society free from the heinous crime of enforced disappearance. The high price of reprisals against courageous human rights defenders was still being paid. The Human Rights Council was acting against the threat of reprisals for those who were willing to work with treaty bodies and this Committee was fully supporting this through various means. A Committee member would be charged to focus on this urgent and serious matter.

Mr. Salama said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights supported the work of the Committee in favour of civil society in many ways, including a media campaign on the occasion of the third United Nations International Day for the Victims of Enforced Disappearance on 30 August, 2013. A short video was featured on YouTube video on the need for protection from reprisals, and the need for support, including financial support, for those individuals and civil society organizations that struggled to implement the Convention all over the world.

Mr. Salama said he was happy to note that the Committee was strengthening its ties with civil society actors. The Committee was mandated by article 28 of the Convention to cooperate with all relevant mechanisms and instruments including such bodies as the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture. The Committee was due to hold a third joint meeting with the Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances at the current session. Cross-fertilisation between treaty bodies was important and would continue to be so in the future. The necessity of harmonization, consistency and coherence of jurisprudence would also grow in importance.

Treaty body strengthening was an important process that continued to move forward since this Committee last met, Mr. Salama said. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on a detailed cost assessment on the draft elements of a treaty bodies strengthening process in September. The Chairperson of this Committee, Mr. Decaux, addressed this matter in New York a few days ago. The contribution of this Committee to the continuing process of treaty body strengthening in all its details was to be welcomed and the High Commissioner wished it all success in its endeavours.

Emmanuel Decaux, Chairperson of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, was re-elected as Chairperson. Elected as Vice-Chairpersons were Mohammed Al-Obaidi, Suela Janina and Mamadou Badio Camara. Alvaro Garce Garcia y Santos was elected as Rapporteur. Newly elected Committee Expert Corcuera Cabezut (Mexico) made a solemn oath.

Mr. Decaux said that he was moved by the show of confidence by his re-election as Chairperson by the Committee after its first two years. The re-election of other colleagues would build institutional memory in the Committee in years to come as the opening cycle of the Committee closed and a new one opened.

Mr. Decaux said the role of non-governmental organizations in the Committee’s work was to be welcomed: it conferred both legitimacy and humility on the Committee. The number of States now signed up to the Convention had doubled in two years and the campaign for ratification had to continue unabated. Good practice from previous treaty experiences at the national level could help this process. The role of non-governmental organizations was particularly important in this regard. Nine States’ reports had thus far been received by the Committee but this was not enough given that it was a legal requirement under the treaty. However, more would be forthcoming at this session. The current limitation on the Committee to receive only two country reports per two-week session needed to be reformed to perhaps three country reports with longer Committee meetings more in line with the cycles of the Human Rights Council, otherwise it would take up to 10 years to hear all the required reports. The Committee was responsible for the effective implementation of the Convention and it could not bury its head in the sand with regard to its activity, capacity and transparency.

The Chairperson said that the work of this session of the Committee would encompass meetings, public and private, and side-event meetings with non-governmental organizations, civil society, experts and all stakeholders in a spirit of teamwork. The task of the Committee, while a sad one, had to proceed under the idea that “the law of strength must be replaced by the strength of the law”.

The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work. It also held a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of enforced disappearances.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will begin its consideration of the initial report of Argentina (CED/C/ARG/1). The Committee will conclude its review of the report of Argentina on Tuesday, 5 November in the morning. The Committee will begin examination of the initial report of Spain (CED/C/ESP/1), the second and last country report which it is considering this session, on Tuesday, 5 April at 3 p.m., and will conclude the review on Wednesday, 6 April in the morning.

Further information on the Committee and the session can be found at this link.


For use of the information media; not an official record