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Committee on Enforced Disappearances holds separate meetings with states and with civil society

Committee on Enforced Disappearances

28 May 2018

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning held separate meetings with United Nations Member States, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, and non-governmental organizations.

Rainer Huhle, Committee Vice-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, emphasising the importance of ensuring its universal ratification.  He regretted that the Chair of the Committee, Suela Janina, could not attend this session as she was in New York to participate in a meeting of the Chairs of the treaty bodies.

Member States reiterated the importance of the ratification of the Convention, and highlighted the important work done by the Committee.  They also underlined the goal of doubling the number of ratifications within the next five years.  All agreed that a strategy was needed for this purpose.  States also shared the Committee’s concern with regard to the decreased budget.  They reiterated their common goal to achieve universal ratification.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions reported on initiatives which it had launched, including the International Conference on addressing impunity and realizing human rights in South Asia in April 2018, the outcome of which had been the Kathmandu Declaration on addressing impunity and realizing human rights in South Asia which urged States to ratify the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations referred to the serious human rights violations that had occurred in Iraq, including more than 350,000 persons that had disappeared in 12 years.  On the situation in Latin America, they noted that persons who were in forced displacement due to political contexts were greatly at risk of enforced disappearance.

Committee Experts reiterated the importance of the universal ratification of the Convention in order to eliminate the crime of enforced disappearances.  Experts also regretted the budget constraints.  Finally, they highlighted the importance of their cooperation with non-governmental organizations.

Speaking during the debate were Argentina, Japan, France, Morocco and Mexico.

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions also took the floor, as did the following non-governmental organizations: Alkarama, Federacion Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desparecidos, and Geneva for Human Rights.

The Committee will meet in private until Friday, 1 June at 5 p.m., when it will close its session.

Meeting with States

Argentina said it had co-chaired with France the Group of Friends on the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances since the adoption of the Convention in December 2006 and its entry into force in 2010.  They two were about to launch a second campaign on ratification.  It was clear that a move towards the universalisation of the Convention was on the move, in line with the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ commitment to double the number of ratifications.

Japan, noting the absence of the Chairperson, said the coordination of all treaty bodies activities could be a future challenge.  Japan shared the common aspiration to increase the number of Member States who had ratified the Committee, and it urged Member States during the Universal Periodic Review process to ratify the Convention.  If States parties to the Convention gathered their experience on the challenges on the ratification, this would be useful to Member States, which were facing difficulties with regard to ratification.

France said Japan and Morocco, besides Argentina and France, had been mobilising ratifications for the Convention.  The ambition was to double the number of ratifications.  France noted the tight budget constraints for the treaty bodies and the challenges the Committee was facing in terms of interpretation or translation.

Morocco was of the opinion that this Convention lacked visibility.  It deserved universal ratification and all should work harder in this direction.  As a member of the Core Group, Morocco dreamed of an initiative that would boost ratifications, and even achieve universal ratification.  What advice could the Members of the Committee give to States in this regard?

Mexico said the comments and recommendations issued by the Committee had been very useful for Mexico throughout the implementation of the recommendations to address enforced disappearances, which remained one of the highest challenges faced.  In December, Mexico had adopted a law in this direction.

Responses by the Committee Experts

EMMANUEL DECAUX, Committee Expert, said it was very encouraging to have the support of States parties and to see that the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been calling to double the number of ratifications in five years.  There was a need for a real voluntary strategy, with criteria and steps and funding.  There were over 500 urgent cases before the Committee that had been examined, and there were many problems including for States that had already ratified the Convention.  A better explanation of how the Convention worked was needed.

MOHAMMED AYAT, Committee Expert, thanked the Member States present for this highly important dialogue, and for those who were doing all possible to double the number of ratifications in the next five years.  There was a need to give more visibility to this Convention.

HORACIO RAVENNA, Committee Expert, said it was important to achieve universal ratification of the Convention.  He recalled that in 2006, when the Convention had been opened for signature, it had been signed by 96 States, of which only 58 had concluded the ratification process today.

KOJI TERAYA, Committee Expert, noted that pressure from States parties was very useful in urging others to ratify the Convention.

MONCEF BAATI, Committee Expert, said that today many proposals had been heard. Perhaps certain key issues could be focused on, such as the political aspect.  He welcomed the campaign under way in Argentina; Japan’s suggestion of drawing up a guidance of good practices; the importance of the dialogue with the Committee which had been noted by Mexico; and the importance of coordination as suggested by France.

MARIA CLARA GALVIS PATINO, Committee Expert, noted that the urgent actions mechanism for the search of disappeared persons was very important.  Dissemination of this mechanism would be very useful by Member States.  She informed that a flyer was already being circulated to disseminate this mechanism.

DANIEL FIGALLO RIVADENEYRA, Committee Expert, said enforced disappearance was a global phenomenon.  There were new forms of enforced disappearances, and it was changing and affecting everyone.  It included the phenomenon of asylum, migration, and other factors that came into play and were related to enforced disappearance.

RAINER HUHLE, Committee Vice-Chairperson, thanked the Member States for their presence, noting that their work was extremely important in promoting the ratification.  He highlighted the prevention aspect in this respect.  He also underlined the importance of urgent actions, which meant that victims and human rights defenders were more and more aware of this problem.  However, the financial resources were not available.

Meeting with the National Human Rights Institutions

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions greatly valued the opportunity to exchange views regularly with the Committee.  This was a unique opportunity to update the Committee members on the work that the Global Alliance and national human rights institutions around the globe undertook, especially in moving forward the Paper on Cooperation between the Committee and the national human rights institutions from 2014.  The Global Alliance reported on the International Conference on addressing impunity and realizing human rights in South Asia that it hosted from 9 to 11 April 2018.  Its primary focus had been addressing impunity, and it had discussed the challenges posed by national security and the need for security reform, and safe migration, refugees and asylum seekers.  The outcome Kathmandu Declaration on addressing impunity and realizing human rights in South Asia urged States, inter alia, to ratify the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and other international human right treaties, and underlined the centrality of the security sector reform, with a focus to ending extrajudicial executions, disappearances and torture, among other critical recommendations.  The Global Alliance also announced the thirteenth International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions on expanding civic space and promoting and protecting human rights defenders, with a focus on women and the role of national human rights institutions.

Meeting with Non-Governmental Organizations

The Committee saw a video presentation of victims and families of victims of enforced disappearance in Iraq.  

Alkarama said enforced disappearance was a terrorist crime.  Between 2003 and 2013, it had affected more than 358,000 persons in Iraq.  Although hundreds of files had been sent to the Government, the destiny and the reason why these persons had disappeared or had been detained, the Government of Iraq had never given any justifications.  Over 4,000 Iraqi soldiers, the Speicher soldiers, had disappeared.  Over 100,000 persons had been detained in United States’ prisons.  These had been disappeared forcefully.  These victims had been handed over to the Iraqi Government, which in turn, did not disclose their whereabouts.  He asked the Committee to stand in solidarity with Iraq for the sake of 350,000 people who had disappeared in 12 years.  He called for the establishment of a special court on enforced disappearances, to put an end to this crime that was a source of pain for the world.

FEDEFAM, Federacion Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desparecidos, said persons who were in forced displacement due to political contexts were greatly at risk of enforced disappearance.  It encouraged the Committee to support Venezuela in its quest to find the culprits of the victims of enforced disappearance during the dictatorship.  It expressed concern about enforced disappearances in Mexico, which had become more widespread and systematic, without a political will on the Government’s side to put this serious violation to an end.  It expressed concern over the backslide on the programmes to promote truth and investigate the truth on crimes against humanity in Argentina.  Honduras had to shoulder its responsibilities to provide remedies for victims of enforced disappearances, by adopting measures that were legal, economic and political.  

Geneva for Human Rights said in March 2017, the organization had organised a joint expert seminar with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy to discuss ways to strengthen the prevention of and protection from the crime of enforced disappearances.  Despite the appeal launched by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the doubling of the ratification of the Convention, the number of ratifications was not growing as expected.  The appeal had been very much welcomed, but it had been expected that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would follow up this work with Member States, instead of leaving it to multiple actors, including non-governmental organizations.  Geneva for Human Rights did not share the views expressed in a report by the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, which had undermined the importance of the various mechanisms of the treaty bodies.  How could the ratification of the Convention be promoted, if almost no one spoke of the Committee’s work?
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