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30 August 2006

On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August), the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances reiterates its solidarity with all those who suffer from enforced disappearance and pays tribute to the efforts of human rights defenders working for disappeared persons and their relatives.

Since its inception, the Working Group has transmitted more than 50,000 individual cases to Governments in more than 90 countries. The Working Group is deeply concerned about the large number of reports of enforced disappearances that have been submitted over the past year. Many reports have been received of the disappearance of children and, in a few cases, of people with physical and mental disabilities. Human rights defenders, relatives of disappeared persons, witnesses and legal counsel continue to be harassed and threatened. Anti-terrorist activities are being used by an increasing number of States as an excuse for not respecting the obligations of the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Disappearance. In addition, certain mechanisms of truth and reconciliation have given rise to the enactment of amnesty laws and the implementation of other measures that lead to impunity.

The Working Group stresses its grave concern that very few States have created a specific criminal offence of enforced disappearance. It urges States to fulfill their obligation under article 4 of the Declaration to treat all acts of enforced disappearance as offences under criminal law punishable by appropriate penalties which shall take into account their extreme seriousness. The Working Group also welcomes the draft International Convention for the Protection of Persons Against Enforced Disappearance and recommends its swift adoption by the United Nations General Assembly.

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances was established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist the relatives of disappeared persons in ascertaining their fate and whereabouts and to act as a channel for communication between the families and governments concerned. The Working Group is composed of five independent experts: Santiago Corcuera (Chairperson-Rapporteur), J. 'Bayo Adekanye, Darko Göttlicher, Saied Rajaie Khorasani, and Stephen J. Toope.

For more information on the Working Group, please refer to this website: