Report on standards and public policies for an effective investigation of enforced disappearances

Published
7 August 2020
Author
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
Presented
To the Human Rights Council at its 45th session


Background

This thematic study on standards and public policies for an effective investigation of enforced disappearances aims to assess through which public policies or institutions and based on which standards States implement their obligation to investigate enshrined in the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. An interim report was presented to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council and an expert consultation was held on this issue at the margins of the 116th session of the WGEID on 10 September 2018.

Summary

In the report, the Working Group draws the attention of the international community to impunity as a distinctive trait of enforced disappearances. It continues to observe alarming patterns of impunity, both in relation to past acts of enforced disappearance and to new disappearances occurring in different parts of the world.

Impunity can have a multiplying effect, which causes additional suffering and anguish to the victims and their families. The Working Group believes that the international community should not stand neutral in the face of such suffering. Instead, it must strengthen cooperation efforts, increase the assistance available to victims and pursue judicial investigations and prosecutions both at the local and international levels.

The distinctive components of an enforced disappearance – in particular, the participation of State agents and the attempts to conceal information and cover up the crime – necessitate that investigations be carried out with the requisite independence and autonomy. Delays in investigations are usually the result of multiple obstacles faced during judicial proceedings, including the destruction or loss of evidence and the passing of the perpetrators, victims and witnesses. Such obstacles may lead to de facto impunity.

The Working Group concludes that an effective investigation of enforced disappearances must include information about the whereabouts and the fates of the disappeared persons, the circumstances of their disappearance and the identity of the perpetrators. Such an investigation is not only required by the State’s international obligations, but it is also the best way to effectively combat impunity and to realize the right to truth, for both the victims and society as a whole.

Inputs received

The questionnaire to States can be found here as well as access to the questionnaires in French and Spanish.

The call for contributions can be found here.

All submissions received are published below, unless the submitter clearly indicated that they did not wish to have their input be made publicly available when submitting their response.

States

UN entities

National Human Rights Institutions 

Civil society, including Organizations of Persons with Disabilities 

Academics and Individuals

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[1]  References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).