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Committee on Enforced Disappearances opens thirteenth session in Geneva

GENEVA (4 September 2017) - The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning opened its thirteenth session at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, during which it will examine the initial reports of Lithuania and Gabon on their implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. 

The Committee listened to an address by Georgette Gagnon, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, heard solemn declarations by five newly elected members of the Committee, and adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.  The election of the officers of the Committee was postponed to later this week, by consensus.

In her opening statement, Ms. Gagnon said that enforced disappearances continued to occur all over the world and regretted that, in light of the gravity and seriousness of this act, the Convention, with its 57 States parties, had not received the broad-based support it required to meet the objectives, hopes and expectations of the families who had fought so hard for its adoption.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights had launched a ratification campaign with the bold objective to double the number of ratifications in the next five years, and his call had been promptly taken up publicly by Argentina and France, and a trans-regional declaration supporting the ratification had been circulated among the Member States and signed by 49 of them during the thirty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council.  Last week, a social media campaign “Stand Up for the Victims of Enforced Disappearance” had been launched to promote the ratification of the Convention; it included video testimonies by victims of enforced disappearances, art work by famous photographers, sample letters that the public could address to their governments to ratify the Convention, and other materials. 

Ms. Gagnon also informed the Committee about other activities the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was taking to combat enforced disappearances, saying that in Mexico, it continued to provide advice towards the adoption of a General Law on Disappearance that aligned with human rights standards; in Honduras it provided technical assistance to the Government with regard to the review of the State party by the Committee; in Ecuador, the Office facilitated the participation of civil society in the State party’s review; and in Sri Lanka, it continued to advocate for and advise on legislation to domesticate the provisions of the Convention.  In closing, Ms. Gagnon stressed the importance of legal standards and recommendations by treaty bodies to effectively fight enforced disappearances at the national level, and wished the Committee well in its work during the forthcoming, challenging weeks.

Simon Walker, Chief of the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, then proceeded to invite the new members of the Committee to make their solemn declarations.  The following newly elected members of the Committee pronounced their solemn declarations in accordance with rule 11 of the Committee’s Rule of Procedure: Mohamed Ayat (Morocco), Moncef Baati (Tunisia), Milica Kolakoviæ-Bojoviæ (Serbia), Horacio Ravenna (Argentina), and Koji Teraya (Japan).

Live webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available at http://webtv.un.org/

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 4 September, to begin its consideration of the initial report of Lithuania (CED/C/LTU/1).

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For use of the information media; not an official record