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2 May 2006

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

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights held its first of three meetings for 2006 from 24 to 28 April at the UN Offices in Geneva.

The Working Group examined 27 newly reported cases under its urgent action procedure. The members of the Working Group expressed deep concern that the majority of new urgent action cases, 15 in number, come from Colombia, a country recently visited by the Working Group. The Working Group had made many recommendations to the Government of Colombia designed to reduce the incidence of disappearances in that country. (The Colombia Report is available at www.ohchr/english/issues7disappear/)

At this session, the Working Group also dealt with more than 500 unresolved cases from 21 countries, including Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Honduras, Laos, Nepal, Paraguay, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen.

The Working Group especially deplores disappearances of children. At this meeting, it received new cases of disappeared children from Colombia and reviewed outstanding cases of children’s disappearances in Honduras and Nepal. It also discussed communications received on the case of the Panchen Lama of Tibet, China. The Working Group noted that this session coincided with the 17th birthday of the Panchen Lama who disappeared when he was only 6 years old.

Meetings were held with NGOs and with the Governments of Japan, Nepal and Venezuela. The Working Group welcomes progress made by the Government of Nepal in implementing some of the recommendations from the Working Group’s country visit report on Nepal of 2004. The recent creation of a central registry of detainees is a positive step, as is the granting of unqualified access to all official places of detention to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). However, the Working Group is concerned that the legitimacy of the NHRC has been undermined by the appointment of members in the period before the re-establishment of Parliament. The Working Group continues to receive reports of disappearances, and of secret detention. The Working Group urges the Government of Nepal to seize opportunities presented by the current political transition to strengthen the legal framework to prevent and punish the crime of disappearance. The issue of accountability must be fully addressed.

The Working Group examined some cases that had been before it since the creation of the Group over 25 years ago. It is shocking that such cases remain unresolved after so many years. The Working Group urges all governments to cooperate with Group and to fully implement the requirements of the 1992 UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (“1992 Declaration”) .

Having considered missions to various countries, the Working Group welcomed the invitation of the Russian Federation and Argentina for country visits in 2007. It is concerned that the Government of Algeria, the state with the highest number of disappearances reported to the Working Group from Africa, has failed to respond positively to the Working Group’s repeated requests for a country visit.

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 defined in the 1992 Declaration, adopted by the General Assembly, enforced disappearances occur 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 is mandated by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to assist in the implementation of the Declaration and relevant international rules.

Further information: