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Committee on Enforced Disappearances concludes its sixteenth sessions

ROUNDUP

Adopts Concluding Observations on the Reports of Chile, Italy and Peru, and the Guiding Principles for the Search for Disappeared Persons  

GENEVA (18 April 2019) - The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this afternoon closed its sixteenth session after adopting its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Chile, Italy and Peru on their implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  The Committee also adopted its Guiding Principles for the Search for Disappeared Persons.  

Koji Teraya, Committee Rapporteur, said that in the course of its sixteenth session that had started on 8 April, the Committee had adopted concluding observations on reports of Italy, Peru and Chile, and the list of issues on the reports of Bolivia (Plurinational State of) and Slovakia, whose reports would be reviewed at the Committee’s seventeenth session.  The Committee had decided to postpone the adoption of the list of issues in the absence of a report for Nigeria, also due to be reviewed at the seventeenth session.  The Committee had adopted the follow-up report on urgent actions and the guidelines on preparing a list of issues in the absence of a report, and had decided to send reminder letters to Mali, Brazil and Iraq, and to request Argentina to hold a substantive dialogue on the implementation of the Convention during the meeting of States parties in New York in June 2019.

As for the 2020 treaty body review process, the Rapporteur said that the Committee had decided to convey its position to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to request the Secretary-General to reflect all the Committee’s activities in his forthcoming report on the implementation of the 68/268 resolution to the General Assembly.  The Committee reiterated its request to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to implement the fifth week of meetings allocated to it by the General Assembly and adopted a provisional agenda for the seventeenth session. 

The Committee then adopted its annual report to be submitted to the General Assembly at it seventy-fourth session.

Suela Janina, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, said that during the session, the Committee had adopted the Guiding Principles for the Search for Disappeared Persons which gathered many good practices to overcome obstacles that States encountered in the search for disappeared persons.  The guidelines, she stressed, did not create new obligations for States parties but were meant to assist States in devising their policies.  The Committee had started to consider the issue of the obligation of States under the Convention to search and locate disappeared persons in 2016, the Chair recalled, and stressed that throughout the drafting process, it had consulted widely with many stakeholders and had received 46 submissions from organizations of victims of enforced disappearances, civil society organizations, national human rights institutions, academia, and States.  The Chair called for their widest dissemination and the collection of good practices on their implementation.

The Committee should be proud of its achievements over the past eight years, said the Chair.  This youngest human rights treaty body had caught up with other Committees in terms of developing infrastructure for its work.  It had been among the first to approve the Addis Ababa and the San Jose guiding principles, started developing vigorous jurisprudence, and had reviewed reports of 32 States parties.  The Committee had issued two substantive statements, on the ratione temporis element and on military jurisdiction, in order to provide consistency and predictability during the monitoring process.

The Chair stressed that the urgent action procedure was one of the Committee’s most effective tools, unique in the entire human rights system for its preventive nature as it enabled families to address the Committee to request urgent measure to be taken to locate their beloved ones who had been disappeared.  Since 2012, the Committee had registered 569 urgent action requests; 29 persons had been located and released alive and 22 persons had, unfortunately, been found dead.  Numbers were not always telling, and in the context of enforced disappearances, urgent action requests had proven to be a life-saving instrument, stressed Ms. Janina.

In 2016, the Committee had issued its first view on an individual communication in the case of Yrusta vs. Argentina, in which the Committee had confirmed that short term disappearance could not be justified and that placing a person outside of the reach of the law, even for short periods of time, amounted to enforced disappearance.  The Committee, the Chair continued, was not an isolated island in the battle against enforced disappearances and had enjoyed the support of States parties as demonstrated by the positive outcome of the first conference of the States parties to the Convention, which had reaffirmed that the Committee was indeed the monitoring body for the implementation of the Convention.  

Challenges continued to persist, said the Chair, most importantly, the universal ratification of the Convention which was critical to making this important human rights instrument operational.  With 59 States parties, the Convention was not yet showing its full impact, which called for concerted communication and awareness-raising activities.  Enforced disappearance was one of the most egregious crimes, concluded the Chair, noting with concern that the practice continued and that change in the fight against enforced disappearances was needed and was possible.  Securing a world free of enforced disappearances would be a difficult mission, also in the view of its new forms that were emerging today.  But there was no other option and not a single case of enforced disappearances must be accepted, concluded Ms. Janina.

The Committee bid farewell to six of its outgoing members.  Emmanuel Decaux stressed the insidious nature of the crime of enforced disappearances which represented a denial of common humanity.  Maria Clara Galvis Patino recalled that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance came with new and powerful rights enshrined in the prohibition of enforced disappearances under any circumstances.  Rainer Huhle wholeheartedly thanked all the colleagues in the Secretariat, recalled that serving on the Committee required continuing learning, and reiterated the importance of searching for disappeared persons.  Daniel Figallo Rivadeneyra highlighted the contemporary challenges, such as international migrations, which accentuated the phenomenon of enforced disappearances, and warned against divisive speech and discourse which tore precious social fabrics.  Chairperson Suela Janina wished the Committee the best of success in the future and reiterated the commitment of outgoing experts to accompany its important human rights protection work.

The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the three countries considered during the session will be available after 18 April on the session’s webpage.  Press releases on the public meetings during which the reports were considered are available on the webpage of the United Nations Office at Geneva, while the webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed here.

The Committee will hold its seventeenth session from 30 September to 11 October 2019, during which it will review the reports of Bolivia (Plurinational State of) and Slovakia.

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For use of the information media; not an official record