GENEVA (15 April 2019) - The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning held separate meetings with States, and with non-governmental organizations.
In her opening remarks, Suela Janina, Committee Chairperson, recalled that the Committee had concluded an intensive week, during which it had held constructive dialogues with Chile, Peru and Italy, which she thanked for their constructive approach. She briefed the States on requests for urgent action, the 2020 treaty bodies review, and on the Draft Guiding Principles for the Search for Disappeared Persons, which she hoped would be a useful document for States parties and all those involved in the fight against enforced disappearance. The Chair also reiterated the long-standing issue of human resources which was now a matter of urgency.
Representatives of States expressed support for the efforts towards the universalization of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the work of the Committee. They stressed the importance of participating in the 2020 review which could lead to strengthening the cooperation with other treaty bodies, especially the Committee against Torture with which there was a great degree of convergence, and improving the efficiency of the treaty bodies system to overcome duplication between different Committees. They asked about draft guidelines on the search for disappeared persons and the practice of reviewing States parties in the absence of a report.
Speaking in the discussion were France, Peru, Chile, Switzerland, Japan, Mexico, Gabon, Argentina, Mongolia and Iraq.
During the meeting with non-governmental organizations, Geneva for Human Rights raised concern that certain proposals made in the context of the treaty bodies reform process did not take into consideration the specificity of the Committee, whose mechanisms and procedures required quick action and specific additional resources. Todos los niños robados son también mis niños, in a statement summarized by a member of the Secretariat, hoped that following the Spanish elections at the end of April, a draft bill on kidnapped babies would be finally adopted.
Meeting summaries of all public meetings held during the sixteenth session of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance, which is scheduled to conclude on 18 April, can be found, here and archived meeting webcasts here.
The Committee will next meet in public at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 18 April to close its sixteenth session.
SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, in her opening remarks, recalled the that the Committee had concluded an intensive week, during which it held constructive dialogues with Chile, Peru and Italy, which she thanked for their constructive approach. The Committee had dedicated the last session to the discussion of the Draft Guiding Principles for the Search for Disappeared Persons, and she expressed hope that it would be a useful document for States parties and all those involved in the fight against enforced disappearance. She expressed hope that Brazil and Mali would soon submit their reports. The Committee always tried to exhaust every means, including diplomatic ones, to obtain the reports before resorting to reviewing a State’s situation without a report, said the Chair.
Regarding urgent actions, there were 569 of them registered, more than 500 of which were active. The long-standing issue of human resources was now a matter of urgency and the Chair made an appeal to States to continue to work with all stakeholders to find a durable solution. The Committee had asked that information on the Committee’s working methods—notably as pertained to urgent actions, review in the absence of a report, and additional information submitted under article 29.4—be included in the Secretary-General’s forthcoming report to the General Assembly, so that they may be properly taken into account in the allocation of meeting time and staffing. On the 2020 review, the Committee would participate in the upcoming Chairpersons’ annual meeting in June and would continue consulting with other treaty bodies to adopt a common position, Ms. Janina said and thanked the States that had provided earmarked funds for the ratification campaign, such as Japan.
Meeting with States
France praised the work of the Committee and recalled that together with Argentina, France had played an important role in the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and fully supported the efforts towards its universalization. France asked about cooperation with other treaty bodies, including on the issue of the 2020 review.
Peru stressed the importance of the Committee’s participation in the 2020 review. Peru, which had just completed its review before this Committee and the Committee against Torture, noted a great degree of convergence between the two Committees and said that the 2020 review should explore how it could be better shared.
Chile welcomed the dialogue with the Committee and stressed the importance of presenting its report during the session, particularly given the ongoing transition process in the country. Chile would study the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations with great attention. There was a need to improve the efficiency of the treaty bodies system to overcome duplication between different Committees, remarked Chile.
Switzerland thanked all Committee Experts, particularly those whose term was coming to an end, and asked whether the practice of reviewing States parties in the absence of a report would continue.
Japan said that through the Convention, the international community had affirmed that enforced disappearance would be punished, including the abduction issue. Japan had reached out to States, particularly the Asian region, to raise awareness about the Convention, and was consistently making recommendations to ratify it in the Universal Periodic Review. Commenting on Japan’ review in November 2018, during which the Committee had not taken into account the delegation’s explanations and had exceeded its mandate, Japan requested the Committee to improve its impartiality, fairness and accuracy.
Mexico asked when the final version of the Guiding Principles for the Search for Disappeared Persons would be adopted and how the Committee intended to distribute and promote them. There was a need to find efficient means to follow up on, and respond swiftly to, urgent actions, since the Committee’s automatic reminders did not always include sufficient information and reminders were sent about questions to which Mexico had already provided answers. Mexico said perhaps these problems were due to the fact that these new automatic responses were part of a pilot project, and asked if the Committee had more information on these issues.
Gabon recalled that it had ratified the Convention on 19 January 2011 and remarked that as yet, it had not fully aligned its national legislation with the Convention since it lacked jurisprudence on enforced disappearance. Enforced disappearances were a new concept in Gabon, which authorities were trying to better understand. That was why Gabon was a State party to the Convention and it would continue work to implement it. The Committee’s cooperation would help Gabon strengthen its capacity.
Argentina said the delegation was grateful for the outgoing Committee members work. On the Guiding Principles for the Search for Disappeared Persons, Argentina’s experience could be a useful input. Regarding the conversation that had taken place in New York, Argentina would continue to work so that an in-depth debate on the implementation of the Convention might take place.
Mongolia said that it had ratified the Convention in 2014 and that its initial report, submitted in 2017, focused on the legal framework as there were no enforced disappearances in the country. Mongolia had been using the Universal Periodic Review process to encourage States to ratify the Convention.
Iraq was preparing its second report and said that a number of claims of enforced disappearance had been lodged, perpetrated by terrorist organizations. There were also claims which were not credible, Iraq said, and urged the Committee to give its opinion on urgent requests it had received.
In response to Japan’s remarks, SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee had replied to the letter received by the State party and that it continued to entertain good will and openness in identifying and addressing all the problems and issues. The Committee had always interpreted the Convention as a victim-based instrument and would continue to do so, the Chair stressed. The Committee was actively working with other treaty bodies with a view of harmonization and strengthening the efficiency of the system in the context of the 2020 review. Furthermore, the Committee was under a legal obligation set out by the Convention to cooperate with other treaty bodies. The Committee had approved its working methods during its fifteenth session, which inter alia addressed the issue of a review in the absence of a report, said the Chair, noting that the Committee would continue to work with States parties to assist them in the submission of their reports.
Other Committee Experts remarked that the Committee was about to face a great degree of turnover, with 10 Experts ending their terms – this would represent a challenge in terms of ensuring continuity but would also provide an opportunity to get new perspectives and views. The Committee had worked with other treaty bodies on the issue of the 2020 review and was awaiting the issuance of the common position. The Committee had met with other treaty bodies, including the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers, and would continue to do so. The Committee would continue to work on the approval of the Draft Guiding Principles for the Search for Disappeared Persons during the current session.
The Committee had 570 registered urgent actions; the follow up on all those represented an important workload, in which the support of the Secretariat was indispensable. It was in the interest of everyone that cases related to Iraq were resolved as soon as possible.
Committee Experts noted the low participation of States from the Asia-Pacific region. While acknowledging that there was perhaps some overlap between treaty bodies, they stressed that many violations of human rights were multidimensional, and each Committee had distinct mandates. They acknowledged that States were taking significant steps to implement the Convention and assured them that the Committee listened to their comments and questions.
IBRAHIM SALAMA, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was a model Convention, as it was very recent. On financial resources, he recalled that in 2014, Member States had agreed on a formula to assess financial needs of treaty bodies, but unfortunately, the formula had not been implemented. There was an opportunity to put this issue on the top of the agenda. While the task of States in that regard was not easy, it was not impossible by any means, he said. The unity of mind in Geneva should be impressed on counterparts in New York, as they held the decision-making power.
A member of the Secretariat said that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had asked for a contribution of States towards the implementation of General Assembly resolution 68/268. The draft status report on the implementation of this resolution was due in June 2019, for its official adoption in January 2020, in order to inform the final decision on treaty bodies review that needed to be taken in April 2020.
SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, thanked all States parties for their support over the past eight years of the Committee’s work.
Meeting with Non-Governmental Organizations
Geneva for Human Rights welcomed the Committee’s victim-oriented approach as well as its work on the Guiding Principles for the Search for Disappeared Persons. It was worrying that certain proposals made in the context of the current treaty bodies reform process did not take into consideration the specificity of the Committee, whose mechanisms and procedures required quick action and specific additional resources. Given that many States parties had not submitted their reports, regular reminders remained indispensable and their situation had to be examined in the absence of a report. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should be proactive and make concrete proposals to ensure that the Committee could deal adequately with its mandate.
Todos los niños robados son también mis niños, in a statement which was summarized by a member of the Secretariat, said that all parties represented at the Spanish parliament had debated, and then unanimously approved, a draft bill on kidnapped babies. Since then, no progress has been made, however; there had been a legislative hiatus due to the elections that would take place at the end of the month, following which the bill would be hopefully adopted.
In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts said that the harmonization process had to be conducted at the Chairpersons’ level. While the master calendar was still up for debate, it could not exactly match the Committee’s needs. Given the importance of the initial report, harmonization should respect the Committee's specificity and take into consideration article 25 of the Convention. On non-governmental organizations, they said their input was crucial to the Committee’s work.
SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, stressed the critical importance of the work and the support of non-governmental organizations. The Committee took note of their remarks and questions, and this would foster a greater harmony with the larger system of human rights.
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