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Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances concludes its 112th session

GENEVA (19 May 2017) - The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) concluded its 112th session, welcoming Luciano Hazan as a new member.

The Working Group examined under its urgent action procedure 65 reported cases of enforced disappearances that have occurred in the last few months – concerning Bahrain, China, Egypt, Malaysia, Pakistan, State of Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Venezuela - as well as more than 550 cases, including newly-reported cases outside the urgent action procedure and updated information on previously accepted ones.

Other countries whose cases were examined during the session are: Argentina, Bangladesh, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Gambia, Greece, Guyana, Iran, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The experts also adopted the report related to the country visit to Albania (December 2016) and discussed the annual report as well as the thematic report on the issue of enforced disappearances in the context of migration. They also reviewed the follow-up reports to the recommendations made upon the visits to Chile (2012) and Spain (2013). All these reports will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2017.

The group of independent experts also shared concerns on specific current country situations, including the deteriorating and worrisome situations in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The experts also noted with concern the 3 May judgment of the Supreme Court of Argentina applying a law in force between 1994 and 2001 (so-called “two for one” benefit), which can significantly reduce the prison term of individuals convicted of enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity. The Working Group recalls that the 1992 Declaration provides that all acts of enforced disappearance shall be appropriately punished, taking into account their extreme seriousness; and that those responsible shall not benefit from any special amnesty law or similar measures that might have the effect of exempting them from any criminal proceedings or sanction. In this respect, the Working Group welcomes the quick reaction of the Argentine Parliament adopting a law establishing that the “two for one” benefit is not applicable to criminal conduct that may fall under the category of crimes against humanity, genocide, or war crimes under domestic or international law.

The Group was also outraged to receive during its session, on 10 May, the tragic news of the brutal murder in Mexico of Miriam Rodríguez, mother of a disappeared and prominent human rights defender, who was instrumental in bringing to justice the responsible of the disappearance of her daughter. The Working Group underlines the responsibility of States to protect those involved in the investigation of enforced disappearances, notably relatives, from acts of violence, intimidation and reprisals, demanding that those responsible of this heinous act are urgently found and appropriately punished.

The Working Group also reviewed responses from various Governments to prompt intervention letters, general allegations and urgent appeals. It also adopted new general allegations. Members also discussed their forthcoming and potential country visits, including its next visits to Gambia (June 2017) and Sudan (November 2017), as well as future activities.

The experts met with family members of disappeared persons and non-governmental organizations. They also held meetings with representatives of the Governments of Japan and Portugal.

The Working Group will hold its 113th session in Geneva, from 11 to 15 September 2017.

(*) Check the Declaration:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/EnforcedDisappearance.aspx

ENDS

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Ms. Houria Es-Slami (Morocco) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada); other members are Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea), Mr. Luciano Hazan (Argentina) and Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania).

The Working Group was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It 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. It 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.

For more information on the Working Group, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx

How to submit cases to the Working Group?: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/issues/Disappearances/Communication_form_E.doc

Read the Working Group’s 2015 report to the UN Human Rights Council and post-sessional documents http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/Annual.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Ugo Cedrangolo (+41 22 9179286, ucedrangolo@ohchr.org or wgeid@ohchr.org)