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Enforced disappearances: UN experts urge States to “stop looking the other way”

GENEVA (11 September 2019) – States around the world must act urgently to prevent enforced disappearances rather than looking the other way, said a group of UN human rights experts.

“It is our responsibility to alert the Human Rights Council and the international community as a whole, of what we are witnessing as a Working Group,” said Bernard Duhaime, Chair of the Working Group, after presenting the group’s latest annual report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Duhaime said the global trend in deteriorating human rights was underlined by a number of worrisome developments in the area of enforced disappearances.

“The increasing use of extraterritorial abductions by a number of States; the adoption of regressive legislation and measures in the area of truth, justice and reparations; and the proliferation of acts of reprisals towards relatives and civil society organisations, are only a few examples of what we face in the current climate,” he said.

“A number of States are also increasingly justifying the use of enforced disappearances under the pretext of combating terrorism, including through the adoption of legal provisions that facilitate the occurrence of enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention.

“The silence and lack of reaction on the part of the international community could be interpreted as a normalisation of these practices, which are in clear breach of international human rights law. The Working Group finds these trends extremely concerning,” he added.

In addition to the annual report, Duhaime also presented a report on the Working Group’s visit to Ukraine, as well as follow-up reports on the recommendations made by the Working Group after past visits to Peru and Sri Lanka.

“We stand ready to assist these Governments in the implementation of the recommendations made following our visits to their countries,” he concluded.


(*) The Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances comprises five independent experts from all regions around 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 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 people who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group’s humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established. 

The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Read the latest annual report of the Working Group

Learn how to submit a case to the Working Group.

Read the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Mr. Ugo Cedrangolo (+41 22 917 9286 / ucedrangolo@ohchr.org) or write to wgeid@ohchr.org
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