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A new landmark step that further expands the protection of victims of enforced disappearances

GENEVA (25 November 2010) – The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances welcomed the twentieth ratification of the Convention on Disappearances,* which ensures the entry into force of an international human rights treaty against this heinous crime.

“This is a momentous step, a day that has been looked forwarded to by many in all parts of the world, including families of those who have disappeared,” said Jeremy Sarkin, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. “A new tool now exists, which alongside others, should help in the fight against the scourge of enforced disappearances.”

On 23 November 2010, Iraq became the 20th country to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, a key step that ensures that the Convention will now enter into force within thirty days.

“The process to deal with enforced disappearances has needed a binding treaty, now the world has one,” Mr. Sarkin noted. “The entry into force of the Convention will strengthen the States’ capacities to reduce the number of disappearances. It will also bolster the hopes and the demands for justice and truth by victims and their families.”

The Working Group has actively supported the coming into force of the Convention and the establishment of a UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which will complement and strengthen the Group’s work and that of civil society, including relatives of disappeared people, to combat enforced disappearance.

The Working Group congratulates Iraq and the other 19 States that have ratified or acceded to the Convention (Albania, Argentina, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Senegal, Spain and Uruguay) for contributing to its entry into force.

“We reiterate our call upon all Governments that had not signed and/or ratified the Convention to do so as soon as possible,” he said, “and to accept the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider individual and inter-State communications under articles 31 and 32 of the Convention, when ratifying it.”

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) was established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. The WGEID endeavours 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 WGEID continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. The Working Group also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa) and the other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitkzy (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon) and Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France).

(*) International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disappearance-convention.htm

For more information on the WGEID, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/index.htm

Fact sheet no. 6 on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances available in Arabic, Chinese, French, English Russian and Spanish at:

Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disappearance.htm

For further details and media requests, please contact Ms. Giovanna Zucchelli, Secretary of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 9189 / email: gzucchelli@ohchr.org) or write to wgeid@ohchr.org