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26 August 2005

On the occasion of International Day of the Disappeared (30 August), the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is issuing the following message:

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) is deeply concerned that the phenomenon of enforced disappearances persists around the world. Since its inception in 1980, the WGEID has transmitted some 50,000 individual cases of enforced disappearances to Governments of more than 90 countries.

These figures are only the tip of the iceberg. On a number of occasions the WGEID has expressed concern over the number of cases it has received from certain countries, which seems low when seen against the negative human rights situation of those countries. During its fact-finding field missions and in meetings with relatives of disappeared persons and non-governmental organizations, the WGEID has been alarmed by the generalized phenomenon of “under-reporting”. In some countries such as Colombia, the lack of reporting of cases of disappearances at national and international levels is largely due to the fear of reprisals by paramilitary armed groups.

Another disturbing trend is the implicit amnesties and resulting impunity revealed in some legal instruments that have recently been adopted, or are about to be adopted this year. The recently adopted law on demobilization (Justicia y Paz) in Colombia and the text that will be submitted to referendum (Decree n°05-278) in Algeria in September are worrisome examples. On many occasions, the WGEID has reminded States of their obligations under the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Enforced disappearance is a continuing offence and investigations should continue for as long as the fate and the whereabouts of victims of enforced disappearance remain unknown.

The WGEID regrets that families of disappeared persons or human rights defenders are harassed, hampered from locating their loved ones, and even accused by the authorities of trying to destabilize the country. In particular, this is the case in Nepal. The WGEID urges the Nepalese authorities to protect human rights defenders from persecution for their work and to fully implement the recommendations issued following the Working Group’s country visit of last December.

On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, the WGEID reiterates its solidarity with all those who suffer from enforced disappearance and with human rights defenders working for disappeared persons and their relatives. The WGEID pays tribute to their efforts and to their unquenchable thirst for truth and justice.

The WGEID 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 WGEID is composed of five independent experts: Professor Stephen J. Toope (Chairperson-Rapporteur), Professor J. ‘Bayo Adekanye (Vice-Chairperson), Saied Rajaie Khorasani, Darko Göttlicher, and Santiago Corcuera.

For more information on the WGEID, please refer to this web site: