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29 July 2006

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances issued the following statement today:

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances today concluded its second of three annual sessions for 2006 from 24 to 28 July at the United Nations Offices in Geneva.

The Working Group reviewed more than 300 cases of enforced disappearances from 33 countries. The Working Group expressed particular appreciation for the efforts of the Governments of Yemen, Morocco and Argentina. They replied to Working Group requests in relation to a large number of cases, providing information which may lead to clarification of the fate or whereabouts of disappeared persons from these countries in cases that have been before the Working Group for many years. The Yemeni Government’s replies may lead to the largest number of clarifications from any state in recent years.

The Working Group’s annual examination of country practices affecting enforced disappearances (general allegations) submitted by non-governmental organizations regarding countries resulted in the decision to transmit six such allegations to governments in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. The allegations touched on issues including threats against human rights defenders, impunity of perpetrators of disappearances, and clandestine detention.

Meetings were held with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and family members from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Argentina and with delegations of the governments of Argentina, Guatemala, Japan and Yemen. The Working Group was very disturbed to learn of continuing difficulties faced by human rights defenders and relatives of the disappeared.

The Working Group elected Santiago Corcuera as Chairman-Rapporteur for a two year period, as of 1 August 2006.

The Working Group was created by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. The Working Group endeavors to establish a channel of communication between the families and the governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group’s humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established. The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved.

The Working Group is made up of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chairman-Rapporteur is Stephen J. Toope, the Vice-Chairman is J. Bayo Adekanye, and the other Expert-Members are Darko Gottlicher, Saied Rajaie Khorasani, and Santiago Corcuera.

As described in the 1992 Declaration, adopted by the General Assembly, enforced disappearances occur if and when persons are deprived of their liberty by State officials or by persons acting on behalf of, or with the support, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned, which places such persons outside the protection of the law. The Working Group was mandated by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to assist in the implementation of the Declaration and relevant international rules.

For more information on the WGEID, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/index.htm