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Committee on Enforced Disappearances meets with States and civil society

Committee on Enforced Disappearances
13 September 2017

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this afternoon held separate meetings with the United Nations Member States, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations. 

Suela Janina, Committee Chairperson, opened the meeting by welcoming Member States, and thanking them for their contribution to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, emphasizing the importance of its ratification. 

Representatives of Member States and State parties to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance reiterated the importance of the ratification of the Convention, and highlighted the important work done by the Committee.  As enforced disappearances happened everywhere, the States shared the Committee’s goal to achieve the universal ratification and welcomed the new initiative to expand the ratification in Asia, a region that lagged behind.  Delegates reiterated the importance of cooperation between the Committee, Working Group on enforced disappearances and special procedures, and urged the Committee to look at new forms of enforced disappearances committed by non-State actors.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions said that currently, there were 110 national human rights institutions worldwide of which 74 were accredited in full compliance with the Paris Principles, and emphasized that they could be key partners to the treaty body system.  The Global Alliance welcomed the consideration the Committee had given to the role of national human rights institutions in its work, including through its rules of procedure and the Paper on cooperation between the Committee and national human rights institutions, which served as a framework for engagement and constituted the best practice example for other treaty bodies on how to strengthen cooperation with those organizations.

Representatives of non-governmental organisations said it would be extremely important for the Committee to develop the scope, nature, and content of some crucial provisions of the Convention, such as Articles 1 and 2 which referred to enforced disappearances committed by non-State actors, and Article 24 which referred to the rights of victims to the truth and the protection of the family.  In Asia, enforced disappearances were an everyday phenomenon in recent years and yet, only four States had ratified the Convention.  Non-governmental organizations commended the work of the Committee, and highlighted the importance of the ratification of the Convention.

Committee Experts reiterated that the elimination of the crime of enforced disappearances required the universal ratification of the Convention and noted that numerous strategies could be adopted to this end.  Regional organisations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, had an important role to play.  Ninety-six States had signed the Convention but only 57 had proceeded with the ratification, which pointed to the need to ensure that the domestic processes did not hinder the ratification, Experts said.  They highlighted the importance of the cooperation with the national human rights institutions for the work of the Committee, encouraged them to be more proactive in their engagement with the Committee and commended the efforts of the Global Alliance to bolster the capacities of the national human rights institutions, which was extremely important. 

Speaking during the debate were Argentina, Iraq, Japan and France.   Also speaking was the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, and the following non-governmental organizations: Association of World Citizens, World Sinti Congress, Geneva for Human Rights Global Training, International Commission of Jurists, and Asian Legal Resource Centre.

During the meeting, the Committee’s new bureau was announced, composed of Suela Janina (Albania) as the Committee Chairperson; Maria Clara Galvis Patino (Colombia), Mohammed Ayat (Morocco) and Rainer Huhle (Germany) as Vice-Chairpersons; and Koji Teraya (Japan) as Committee’s Rapporteur.

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

The Committee will hold private meetings until Friday, 15 September at 3 p.m., when it will hear a presentation of the session’s report and publicly close its thirteenth session.

Meeting with the States

SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, welcomed the United Nations Member States and thanked them for following the work of the Committee as well as for their work in the universalization of the rights under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  Enforced disappearances remained a global concern, and the Convention was a new instrument, so the Chair urged all States to join the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ campaign to support the work of the Committee.  She also encouraged Member States which were not yet parties to the Convention to ratify it as soon as possible. 

Argentina highlighted the importance of the Committee and commended its work, and recalled that Argentina had been one of the driving forces behind the ratification of the Convention.  Argentina would continue its efforts towards encouraging the ratification thereof.

Iraq appreciated the efforts made by all Member States and shared the Committee’s goal to achieve the universal ratification of the Convention.  Iraq wished all new Committee Members success in their new roles.

Japan extended its heartfelt welcome to the new Committee Members and its appreciation to the outgoing ones.  Enforced disappearances happened everywhere, said Japan and saluted the Experts’ new initiative to expand the ratification of the Convention in Asia.  Japan reiterated the importance of cooperation between the Committees, Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs, and asked for some reflection on ways to bridge these together.

France invited the States and Committee Experts to attend a side event to the Human Rights Council organized by France and a group of countries, on the universalisation of the Convention.  It would be held on Thursday 14 September at 1 p.m. in Room XXIII of the Palais des Nations.  France underlined the complementarity between the mandates of the Working Group on enforced disappearances and the Committee and urged it to look at new forms of enforced disappearances committed by non-State actors.

Argentina thanked the Experts for recognizing the work done by Argentina and reiterated the commitment to continue the efforts in the fight against the crime of enforced disappearance.

SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, agreed on the importance of the promotion of the ratification of the Convention regionally, and invited the States to take into consideration the competence of the Committee to address or to hear individual cases.  The Committee wanted to see each region well represented in the ratification chart of the Convention, she noted, and reassured the delegates that the Committee would pay due attention to new forms of enforced disappearances. 

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts noted that 57 ratifications had been achieved since the opening of the Convention for the ratification, and that additional 57 were needed over the next five years.  Numerous strategies could be adopted to aid the ratification, for example, seminars could be organized to explain all elements of the Convention.  They highlighted the importance of regional organisations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which could hold roundtables and seminars on a regional level.  An Expert recalled that 96 States had signed the Convention and of those, only 57 had proceeded with the ratification; the ratification process had been hindered by domestic processes, and this issue had to be addressed.  Experts emphasized that violations could also be committee by private entities, and not just States.  They agreed with Japan’s concern about the low rate of ratification in Asia and made several suggestions on how to address the issue, including by asking the Secretary-General to highlight the importance of the Convention during the General Assembly and by multiplying the number of seminars and conferences on the Convention.

SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, thanked the States for their continued support and assured them of the Committee’s readiness to cooperate with all Member States on this issue.

Meeting with the National Human Rights Institutions

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions recognized and valued the unique role of the treaty bodies in promoting and protecting human rights and monitoring the effective implementation of universal human rights standards at the national level.  National human rights institutions could be key partners to the treaty body system, with a view to promoting the implementation of international human treaties on the ground.  The role of the national human rights institutions had been recently highlighted in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: the fight against enforced disappearances was reflected in the Sustainable Development Goal 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all and build effective and accountable institutions at all levels, where one of the indicators to evaluate the States’ progress was the establishment and compliance of national human rights institutions with the Paris Principles.  Currently, there were 110 national human rights institutions worldwide of which 74 were accredited in full compliance with the Paris Principles.

The Global Alliance welcomed the consideration the Committee had given to the role of national human rights institutions in its work, including through its rules of procedure and the Paper on cooperation between the Committee and national human rights institutions; it served as a framework for engagement and constituted the best practice example for other treaty bodies on how to strengthen cooperation with national human rights institutions.  Some examples of how the Global Alliance implemented the Paper on cooperation included advising and assisting individual national human rights institution on the engagement with the Committee, in close cooperation with the Secretariat; establishment of the annual training programme for the staff of the national human rights institutions on the engagement with the international human rights mechanisms, in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; launching the campaign in 2016 to encourage the national human rights institutions to promote the ratification of the Convention and so support the Committee’s call for universal ratification; and also launching the information campaign to raise the awareness among the members about the reporting obligations to the Committee.  The Global Alliance remained committed to engaging with the Committee, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other partners to promote the ratification of the Convention, build the capacity of the members and strengthen the implementation of the Convention on the ground.

SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, thanked the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions for the constructive engagement with the Committee, reiterating the importance of national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights, not only in this but in other human rights treaty bodies as well.  The Committee had discussed how the methodology of engaging national human rights institutions was matching the one recommended by the Chairs of treaty bodies and she stressed that it must not be only a matter of form but of substance as well. 

Other Committee Experts highlighted the importance of the cooperation with the national human rights institutions for the work of the Committee and said that one of the first things the Committee had done was to establish guidelines for the cooperation with those bodies.  It was interesting to note that in practice, the contribution of national human rights institutions to the work of the Committee was not always available and Experts encouraged them to be more proactive.  They commended the efforts of the Global Alliance to bolster the capacities of the national human rights institutions, which was extremely important.  While the onus for the protection and respect for human rights was on States, national human rights institutions were activists within the system and could assist the States in this regard.

Meeting with the Non-Governmental Organizations

Association of World Citizens raised concern about the situation in Turkey and in several countries in the Middle East where devastating wards were raging and denounced the situation in prisons in Turkey, noting that it had issued a report to this effect.

World Sinti Congress commended the work of the Committee which deserved appreciation of all and said that the most important question was the sharing of good practices to create a society where enforced disappearances no longer happened.  There were many countries where the Convention was not in force, and where enforced disappearances was still a practice.  The World Sinti Congress urged the United Nations to establish a policy towards those countries that were not signatories, and to pressure them to ratify the Convention.

Geneva for Human Rights Global Training said that the crime of enforced disappearances had been its priority and said that some of its members had worked on the first international mechanisms fighting this crime.  Since the Convention had entered into force in 2010, the Geneva for Human Rights Global Training was monitoring all the Committee’s meetings and had organized several expert meetings on enforced disappearances.  It had also campaigned to sensitise non-governmental organisations, countries, and national human rights institutions on this issue.

International Commission of Jurists said it would be extremely important for the Committee to develop the scope, nature, and content of some crucial provisions of the Convention, such as Articles 1 and 2 which referred to enforced disappearances committed by non-State actors, and Article 24 which referred to the rights of victims to the truth and the protection of the family, inter alia.

Asian Legal Resource Centre had been working for three decades in Asia, where only four States had ratified the Convention.  In Pakistan, China, India Bangladesh, enforced disappearance was an everyday phenomenon in recent years.  The Centre would send the Committee a report on the experiences it had observed in the region.

SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, stressed the importance of non-governmental organisations in highlighting cases of enforced disappearances in particular States and encouraged them to continue to work with the Committee.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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