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UN experts deeply concerned by ’new practice’ of State-sponsored abductions

NEW YORK (18 October 2018) – The world is witnessing a new and very worrying  practice of extraterritorial abductions by States, a UN expert told the UN General Assembly today, highlighting the case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Bernard Duhaime, Chair of the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, expressed outrage at the actions of States who continue to resort to enforced disappearance. “Whether it is used to repress political dissent, combat organised crime, or allegedly fight terrorism, when resorting to enforced disappearance States are actually perpetrating a crime and an offence to human dignity,” he said.

“Now we are witnessing with outmost concern a new and very worrisome practice of the extraterritorial abductions of individuals in foreign countries through undercover operations, as also highlighted in our latest annual report.

“These abductions occur with or without the acquiescence of the host state, and while in most cases the victims reappear in detention after a short period, in other cases they remain disappeared – as in the recent shocking case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” he said, reiterating a call for an independent international investigation into the events, and the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators.

He said the Working Group had expressed on a number of occasions its concern in relation to so-called ‘short-term disappearances’, increasingly used in recent years especially in the context of anti-terrorism operations. Mr. Bernard Duhaime said often this is done “to extract evidence and finalise the investigation outside the protection of the law and often resorting to coercion, if not torture”.

Mr. Duhaime highlighted the importance of ensuring effective investigation of enforced disappearances. An interim report on standards and public policies for an effective investigation was presented by the Working Group to the Human Rights Council, which will be followed by an in-depth study on the practical implementation of the obligation to investigate enforced disappearances.

The Working Group invited all States, as well as families of the disappeared, civil society, UN mechanisms or agencies and other interested stakeholders to provide any relevant inputs that may contribute to the study.

Mr Duhaime urged all Member States to ratify, without delay, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

ENDS

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea); other members are Ms. Houria Es-Slami(Morocco); Mr. Luciano Hazan (Argentina) and Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania).

The Working Group was established by the then UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

Download forms to submit urgent requests to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances via “How to report a case of disappearance” section.

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Ugo Cedrangolo: ucedrangolo@ohchr.org or wgeid@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Jeremy Laurence – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org.