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International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances Saturday 30 August 2014. Remove all obstacles to aid search for the disappeared, UN experts urge governments

GENEVA (30 August 2014) –Two United Nations expert groups on enforced disappearances call on States “to remove all obstacles” to aid investigations into the fate of disappeared persons.

On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances urge Governments to support relatives of the disappeared by removing all obstacles hindering their search for loved ones, including through the opening of all archives, especially military files.

“More than 43,000 cases, the majority dating back decades, remain outstanding with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. These cases stay open for several reasons, often because relatives have no support in finding out what happened. 

The search for disappeared family members and, in many cases, the identification of discovered remains, is always the most pressing request of relatives who endure tremendous suffering in their long wait to know the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones.

Many relatives face unjustified hurdles in their search, due to the lack of political will, or insufficient and inadequate investigations. 

The recent reunion of Estela de Carlotto, president of the Argentine human rights organisation Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, with her grandson after a 36-year search shows that with good will, cooperation and commitment, a positive outcome is possible, even many years after a disappearance occurs. 

Transparency and information-sharing is a good demonstration of political will,  so we call on States to immediately open all archives, including military files, as these sometimes contain information relating to the whereabouts of disappeared persons. 
States should ensure that relatives, their representatives and all persons with a legitimate interest in finding out what happened have full and prompt access to national, regional and international mechanisms aimed at establishing the truth on the disappearances. This does not just mean removing obstacles to accessing these mechanisms, but actively promoting and facilitating their use. 
It is also essential to expand the use of forensic expertise and DNA testing and make adequate use of all the available technological and scientific techniques. 

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearance is clear: families and friends of a disappeared person are themselves victims and they have the right to know the truth regarding the circumstances of the enforced disappearance, the progress and results of the investigation, and ultimately the fate of the disappeared person.

For this reason, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances encourages Governments, whenever appropriate, to set up ad hoc bodies and specialized units to investigate cases of enforced disappearance and to create national DNA banks to hold genetic samples of all cases reported.

The time for promises has passed. Now it is the time to act. States must urgently address the anguish of the relatives of the disappeared and reinvigorate their investigations into cases of disappearances.

We owe it to the disappeared and to their families and friends who wake up every day, hoping to know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.”

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

Committee on Enforced Disappearances: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CED/Pages/CEDIndex.aspx

Read the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CED/Pages/ConventionCED.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Ugo Cedrangolo (+41 22 917 9286 / ucedrangolo@ohchr.org) or write to wgeid@ohchr.org
Maria Giovanna Bianchi (+41 22 917 9189 / mgbianchi@ohchr.org) or write to ced@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN mandates:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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