GENEVA (12 June 2018) — They were having a family dinner at home when security forces entered the house, handcuffed him and took him away. When the family now asks the authorities where he is, they always get the same reply: “we do not know.”
This example is taken from one of the cases in which the Committee on Enforced Disappearances activated its Urgent Action mechanism: a process which elevates an enforced disappearance from the local, individual level up to a matter between a UN committee of human rights experts, and the highest authorities of the country where the disappearance occurred. This week, the Committee reached the grim milestone of 500 cases registered under this procedure.
“Each Urgent action represents a disappeared person whose family, relatives and friends are suffering every minute of their life by having no idea as to that person’s fate and whereabouts,” said Suela Janina, Chair of the Committee.
For a list of the registered Urgent Actions up to 13 June 2018, please click
The number of Urgent Actions has been increasing steadily since the Convention entered into force in 2010. On a practical level, when the Committee receives information about an enforced disappearance, it contacts the country concerned and the relatives of the victim or their representatives, Ms. Janina continued.
“When a person is reported to have fallen victim to enforced disappearance, immediate intervention is key”, said Rainer Huhle, vice-president of the Committee.
“There is no valid justification for asking relatives of a disappeared person to wait 24, 48 or 72 hours before taking action”, he emphasized.
This procedure, commonly called “urgent action” is one of the most innovative features of the Convention on enforced disappearance. The exchanges between the Committee, the State party and the person who requested the activation of the urgent action procedure go on until the disappeared person is located. “These exchanges are at the core of the procedure. The Committee can also ask the State party to adopt measures to protect the persons who are in danger because of their link with the disappeared person, or because of the actions they have taken to search for him or her,” said Ms. Janina.
The Committee’s aim, she explained, is to help all involved, and to provide guidance to States parties for them to abide by their obligations under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Among those obligations is the demand that enforced disappearances do not happen again.
For more information on the procedure:
For more information and media requests, please contact Julia Gronnevet + 41 22 917 9310 /
Members of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances are independent human rights experts who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. To find out more about the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, please visit:
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