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Committee on Enforced Disappearances meets with Member States, Civil Society and United Nations Agencies

Committee on Enforced Disappearances


7 October 2016

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning held separate meetings with Member States of the United Nations, with national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations, and with United Nations agencies.

In the meeting with Member States of the United Nations, Santiago Corcuera Cabezut, Chairperson of the Committee, said that this meeting was open to States parties to the Convention, as well as to other States interested in the issue of enforced disappearances and also to those willing to support the efforts of the Committee towards the universal ratification of the Convention.  Of the 52 States parties to the Convention, only 20 recognized the competence of the Committee to examine individual complaints, and he urged all to consider recognizing this important mechanism.   

Japan, Argentina, France, Ecuador, Uruguay, Mexico, and Bosnia and Herzegovina expressed their support for the work of the Committee which had gained increasing recognition.  They noted that the Conference of States parties to the Convention would take place on 19 December 2016, during which States would decide on the extension of the mandate of the Committee.

In the meeting with civil society representatives, Mr. Corcuera Cabezut stressed the importance of assessing the independence and functionality of national human rights institutions and recognized the crucial role of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions in this regard.

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions said that the tenth anniversary of the Convention was an important opportunity to reflect on the achievements and opportunities in moving forward in the common objective of the full implementation of the Convention by all States.  It welcomed the decision of Chairpersons of treaty bodies to consider a common treaty bodies approach for engagement with national human rights institutions and looked forward to concrete proposals.

One non-governmental organization, Geneva for Human Rights, said that the urgent action procedure was evidence that non-governmental organizations and victims who had participated in the drafting of the Convention had been listened to.  This was particularly important given the specific nature of the crime of enforced disappearances.

In the meeting with United Nations bodies, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said that one of its priorities in countries was to support national human rights institutions and build their capacity to strengthen human rights systems.  UNDP also supported States in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including Sustainable Development Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Live webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available at http://webtv.un.org/


The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Friday, 14 October to adopt its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Colombia and close the session.


Meeting with States Parties

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Committee Chairperson, said that this meeting was open to States parties to the Convention, as well as to other States interested in the issue of enforced disappearances and also to those willing to support the efforts of the Committee towards the universal ratification of the Convention.  The Chairperson noted that only 20 States parties had recognized the competence of the Committee to examine individual complaints, and he urged all to consider recognizing this important mechanism.   

Japan expressed full support for the important activities of the Committee and its campaign for universal ratification and put emphasis on the Universal Periodic Review process in this regard.  Which outreach activities of the Committee were most important?

Argentina said that this meeting was an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas on improving the work of the Committee and the support of States to its important work.  Argentina highlighted the professionalism and determination of the Committee Experts in recent years and reminded all of the Conference of the States parties which would take place on 19 December 2016 and would assess the implementation of the Convention. 

France recognized the efficient work of the Committee and said that it was now fully absorbed within the network of treaty bodies, which would enable the exchange of best practices and even further increase efficiency.  Did Committee Experts encounter any difficulties in carrying out their mandate and in the examination of reports?  What were the views on the workload for the upcoming session?  France and Argentina, and the Friends of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance were committed to preparing the Conference of the States parties and achieving the aim of giving new impetus to the Committee’s mandate.

Ecuador said it had been one of the first countries to support the initiative by France and Argentine to convene the Conference of States parties and to decide on the future activities of the Committee.  This Committee should not be different from other Committees; it tackled a very sensitive issue which was fundamental to human rights and Ecuador was open to discuss this issue during the Conference of States parties.  Ecuador supported the extension of the mandate of the Committee.

Uruguay said it had been one of the first countries to be reviewed by the Committee and as a member of the group of Friends of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, it would actively participate in the Conference of States parties.  What was the main challenge that the Committee faced in its work and how could States support it and its efforts towards universal ratification?  Uruguay asked about the plans in relation to General Comments which were very important for the implementation of the Convention at the national level; the cooperation with the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances; and whether a focal point had been appointed on reprisals in connection with the San Jose Guidelines.

Mexico recognized the headway that the Committee had made and said that the upcoming Conference of States parties in December would be an opportunity to renew the commitment of States to the work of the Committee.  The cooperation with the Committee was absolutely vital to attain the key objective of eliminating enforced disappearances.  Mexico asked about complementarity with other mechanisms, especially the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, and how the cooperation with other human rights mechanisms took place.

Bosnia and Herzegovina said that the Committee had completed the consideration of its initial report two days ago and reiterated its commitment and support to the work of the Committee.

In their comments and responses to issues raised by States parties, Committee Experts stressed that cooperation, provided for in article 28 of the Convention, was a priority for the Committee and there was a natural synergy with other human rights mechanisms, in particular the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, with which it met on a regular basis, including with thematic rapporteurs.  The Committee was also very actively working together with other treaty bodies and was able to follow up on the resolution 62/268 of the General Assembly, and implement it.  It had requested that a fifth week be added to its session time, and this was an indicator of the workload and efficiency of the Committee.  The Committee was aware of the need for flexibility in its work, for example reporting was not periodic as in other treaty bodies, but reporting was lighter, agile and as needed.  The Committee had established a mechanism which would ensure that it was part and parcel of the San Jose Guidelines.

As for article 27 on the extension of the mandate of the Committee, an Expert said that the Committee had built up a methodology for procedures, working tools and cooperation with States and non-governmental organizations, and tried to be user-friendly and highly specialized.  Fighting enforced disappearances had a long history: 30 years of efforts had been required to adopt the Convention which now had 52 ratifications.  There was a need to look into the future and not reinvent the wheel; there was a need to continue, to go further and pursue the ratification strategy.

Only six of the States parties to the Convention were from Asia, said another Expert and urged all Asian countries to support the ratification of the Convention and the recognition of the competence of the Committee under article 30.  The Committee had already started the follow-up of concluding observations, and the work on General Comments which would be very useful to States in the implementation of the Convention. 

Experts also said that the Committee’s urgent actions procedure was described by academics as an international habeas corpus; at the moment it was working on 340 urgent actions.  The workload in this regard was increasing not because enforced disappearances were on the increase, but because the work of the Committee was better known.  The review of reports by States parties, a process that was now fully developed, allowed the Committee to advance doctrine which enriched international law.

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Committee Chairperson, referred to the upcoming Conference of States parties and welcomed the positive comments by States and their recognition of the Committee’s work.  Dialogues with States parties thus far had been very fruitful, and a very important decision had been made on the jurisdiction.  Turning to difficulties encountered in its work, the Chairperson underscored the hard work of the Secretariat and noted that it worked on multiple fronts as it serviced not only this Committee but other treaty bodies, and urged States to continue to support the very important work of the Rapporteur on urgent actions.  Mr. Corcuera Cabezut stressed the complementarity of the work of the Committee with the work of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and was pleased that many States recognized that complementarity and did not consider it a duplication of efforts.  With regards to the universal ratification campaign, the Chairperson welcomed the idea to include the issue in the Universal Periodic Review and in the work of the General Assembly, and stressed the need for innovative approaches.

Meeting with National Human Rights Institutions

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions said that the tenth anniversary of the Convention was an important opportunity to reflect on the achievements and opportunities in moving forward in the common objective of the full implementation of the Convention by all States.  National human rights institutions played an important role in promoting the ratification of the Convention, supporting domestication into national legislations, and monitoring compliance of States with their reporting obligations.  The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions welcomed the June 2016 decision of treaty bodies Chairpersons to consider a common treaty bodies approach for engagement with national human rights institutions and looked forward to concrete proposals in this regard.

In the ensuing discussion, a Committee Expert emphasized the important work of national human rights institutions, on reporting, awareness raising and supporting the implementation efforts of States, which was of great value and irreplaceable.  The Committee had established a methodology to cooperate with national human rights institutions, which was exemplary.  It was noted that each treaty body had its own way of taking up and presenting national human rights institutions, and in this context the decision of the Chairpersons of treaty bodies to consider a common approach was a promising development.  There was now one year of consultations which would lead to the adoption of a common framework of engagement.

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Committee Chairperson, said that the function of the Global Alliance was absolutely vital, particularly in assessing national human rights institutions, and in lobbying them to support the ratification of the Convention and to support States reporting.  It also had an important role in promoting the country reviews within countries, monitoring the implementation of concluding observations, and giving information to victims.  The Chair noted that some of the national human rights institutions were not fully independent and that was why assessing their independence and functionality was an important task.

Committee Experts agreed that the space for participation should be extended to other independent human rights organizations and institutions, such as those addressing truth and reconciliation, or associations of judges and lawyers.  It would be useful for the Committee to listen to all other organizations which were independent of governments, even if they were not considered to be national human rights institutions.  The independence of national human rights institutions must be respected, even by the Committee which could not tell them what to do, regardless of the role they had to play in supporting the work of the Committee and the Convention at the national level.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions said that steps had been undertaken to make the accreditation process even more robust and vigorous and the review of national human rights institutions was made on the basis of several resources, including treaty bodies concluding observations.  National human rights institutions had a unique role for various reasons: they had the national mandate for the promotion and protection of human rights which gave them a legitimate right to engage on human rights at the national level, and they were accredited by the process overseen by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure their compliance with the Paris Principles.  It was important for national human rights institutions and other national human rights bodies to maintain dialogue and cooperation on the national level for the better protection of human rights.

Meeting with Non-governmental Organizations

Geneva for Human Rights welcomed the work by the Committee in its first five years and said that it conducted itself independently and professionally, and it had also established an urgent action procedure, which was evidence that non-governmental organizations and victims who had participated in the drafting of the Convention had been listened to.  This was particularly important given the specific nature of the crime of enforced disappearances.  States should ensure more robust support for treaty bodies, and also should ratify the Convention. 

Committee Experts said that, based on the spirit of the meeting with States this morning, the upcoming Conference of States parties would reach a milestone which would institutionally strengthen the Committee and give impetus to new ratifications.  One way that non-governmental organizations could support the work of the Committee would be to work together to strengthen the work of organizations of victims and their families.  With regards to urgent actions, an Expert said that the list of requests received did not reflect the situation of enforced disappearances in a given country, but rather it reflected the efforts and the capability of organizations of victims and other organizations to make good use of the facility. 

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Committee Chairperson, acknowledged the work of non-governmental organizations as regards to the Convention and the existence of the Committee as a body stemming from that Convention, and said that their voice was very important.

Geneva for Human Rights said that the idea of urgent actions had been put forward by non-governmental organizations.  The idea was to listen to the victim in order to understand enforced disappearances.  Geneva for Human Rights was planning to hold an expert seminar in March 2017 to create an impetus towards greater ratification levels and greater awareness of the Convention, both within and outside the system.

Meeting with the United Nations Agencies

United Nations Development Programme said that supporting national human rights institutions and building their capacity to strengthen human rights systems in States was one of its priorities.  The United Nations Development Programme also worked at regional levels, for example in Ukraine where the Kyiv Declaration on the important role of national human rights institutions in preventing conflict, and their protection in conflict-affected and fragile settings had been adopted in October 2015.  The United Nations Development Programme continued to support Member States in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including the Sustainable Development Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Committee Chairperson, acknowledged the work of the United Nations Development Programme in many countries around the world.

A Committee Expert asked about the policy on the support of country offices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to treaty bodies, and the disposition of the United Nations Development Programme to support directly and technically the work of treaty bodies in countries concerned.

United Nations Development Programme said that it was often a Resident Coordinator in countries and worked closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The United Nations Development Programme implemented its mandate in complementarity with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and was always available to share its extensive knowledge of specific issues in a country.

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