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Committee on Enforced Disappearances opens seventeenth session in Geneva

Committee on Enforced Disappearances

30 September 2019

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning opened its seventeenth session at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, during which it will examine the efforts of Bolivia and Slovakia to implement the provisions of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. 

Simon Walker, Chief of the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivered the opening statement, following which the Committee heard the newly elected members make their solemn declaration, adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session, and saw a short film in remembrance of victims of enforced disappearances. 

The elections for the new Chair and Bureau of the Committee will be held on Tuesday, 1 October.

The slow rate of the ratification of the Convention remained a matter of concern, noted Mr. Walker in his opening remarks.  While the ratifications by Dominica and Norway – increasing the number of States parties to 62 - were encouraging, the Convention was still far from achieving the goal of universal ratification. 

Nonetheless, the Committee's important work continued to have an impact: its Guiding Principles for the search of the disappeared person, adopted in April this year, were now used by authorities in Colombia and Mexico in their daily activities, while a judge in Argentina had referred to the principles in a resolution requesting the cooperation of the tribunals of another country in carrying out DNA testing related to a disappearance case.

Mr. Walker stressed the importance that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights gave to the issue of enforced disappearance and the work of the Committee,  During her visit to Mexico in April this year, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet had signed an agreement between her Office and the Presidential Commission for seeking the truth and for providing access to justice to the victims of the Ayotzinapa case. 

In El Salvador, the Office, in cooperation with families of disappeared persons, had produced outreach material of a mother searching for her son, to highlight the struggle of relatives in searching for disappeared persons in the context of migration.  This was a joint effort with several partners in the context of the international day of the victims of enforced disappearance in August 2019.  In his press release on 30 August, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres had called on countries to cooperate fully with the Committee and the Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances, while Mexico had recognized the Committee's competence to consider individual cases and had accepted its request to visit the country, outstanding since 2013.  

Turning to the 2020 review of the treaty body system and the current funding crisis in the United Nations system, Mr. Walker said that the overall cash flow situation remained critical and that the situation for 2020 and beyond – whether in relation to funding of sessions or staffing – was uncertain.  Stressing the importance of seizing the opportunity of the 2020 review to bring stability and resourcing to the treaty body system, Mr. Walker welcomed a common vision adopted by the treaty body chairpersons at their recent annual meeting, which highlighted, inter alia, the need to address the resource gap as a priority. 

The Committee then heard its newly elected members: Olivier de Frouville of France, Barbara Lochbihler of Germany, Juan José Lopez Ortega of Spain, Cheik Ahmad Tidiane Coulibaly of Senegal and Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana of Peru make a solemn declaration, and then held a minute of silence in remembrance of Louis Joinet, one of the masterminds behind the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

During the session that will conclude on 11 October, the Committee will examine the report of Bolivia on 1 October in the afternoon and 2 October in the morning, and the report of Slovakia on 2 October in the afternoon, and 3 October in the morning, while on 7 October, it will meet with States parties to the Convention, United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, and with national human rights institutions.  

In private meetings, the Committee will meet with civil society organizations, including from countries under review, examine individual communications and requests for urgent action, discuss its methods of work, address the matters related to the dissemination and implementation of the Guiding Principles for the search for the disappeared person, and adopt lists of issues in relation to Niger (in the absence of a report), Mongolia and Switzerland.

All documents relating to the Committee's work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session's webpage, where the concluding observations on the reports of Bolivia and Slovakia will also be available at the end of the session.

The webcast of the Committee's public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m.  on Tuesday, 1 October to start its review of the initial report of Bolivia (CED/C/BOL/1).

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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