Header image for news printout

Committee on Enforced Disappearances Opens Twentieth Session Online

12 April 2021

New Committee Member Matar Diop from Senegal Makes Solemn Declaration

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this afternoon opened its twentieth session online, during which it will examine the initial reports of Mongolia and Switzerland on their implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and a report containing complementary information presented by Colombia. The Committee heard a statement by Ibrahim Salama, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Addressing the Committee, Mr. Salama said its Members had done commendable work, often at personal hardship, to accompany States, victims, civil society actors and national human rights institutions in their fight to eradicate and prevent enforced disappearances. They had achieved exemplary results. The Committee had continued its regular work and in addition held several commemorations of the tenth anniversary of the Convention and adopted joint guidelines with the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances on enforced disappearances in the context of COVID-19.

The Committee had met online with partners such as the African Commission and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in human beings to discuss areas of collaboration, and continued its work on Urgent Actions. Since its last session, it had registered 44 new requests for Urgent Actions, reaching a total number of 1,013 registered Urgent Actions since the Committee initiated its mandate in 2012. These figures showed the confidence entrusted to the Committee by victims and the importance of the continuity of their work. In particular, Mr. Salama commended Committee Members for their decision to continue doing constructive dialogues with States remotely, while in-person meetings were not possible due to the pandemic. Challenging as this was, their efforts were helping to ensure that the Committee continued to provide its invaluable protection and advice, in spite of the pandemic.

Mr. Salama noted that in addition to the context related to the COVID 19 pandemic, treaty bodies had had to face the prevailing financial and liquidity crisis of the United Nations. Back in February, the Committee had received an update from the Deputy High Commissioner concerning a number of issues, including the deliberations of the General Assembly in December related to the regular budget. Noting that, regrettably, the General Assembly had not approved the requested staff resources to support the increased workload of treaty bodies, mainly related to individual communications and urgent actions, Mr. Salama assured those present that the Office continued to do its utmost to ensure adequate support for the Committee’s work and actively looked for solutions.

A new member of the Committee, Matar Diop of Senegal, made his solemn declaration.

Mohammed Ayat, Committee Chairperson, in his opening remarks, said that as the Committee’s interactions were mainly carried out online, Members must constantly review working methods to adapt them to the exceptional situation. And this without necessarily counting on the human and material support necessary and adequate to do it in the most satisfactory way possible. They refused to let constraints silence them or bring their work to a halt. But in order to preserve the human dimension of the Committee's mission, this temporary situation should in no case become the norm.

Between the previous and the present session, Mr. Ayat said the Committee had been in contact with Member States, which asked the Committee to support them by providing training to their State agents, or assist with the preparation of legislative or regulatory projects relating to enforced disappearances. In addition, it had maintained contact and collaborated with regional or international human rights mechanisms in order to coordinate their actions. Mr. Ayat stressed that the Committee and its Secretariat remained at the disposal of States wishing to receive information or technical guidance on the Convention and its content in view of their potential ratification of the Convention and recognition of the competence of the Committee to examine individual and interstate complaints.

Mr. Ayat noted that, unfortunately, the results of the actions taken so far to increase the number of States parties to the Convention remained insufficient. Since the nineteenth session of the Committee last September, no new State had ratified the Convention, while the number of victims of enforced disappearances continued to increase considerably. In this context, he particularly welcomed the steps taken by the Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers of Sudan which had approved the ratification of the Convention on February 23, 2021. All Committee Members were impatiently awaiting the formalisation of this important decision before the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The Committee had 1,013 registered cases of Urgent Actions, Mr. Ayat said, and only 90 had been resolved after the location of the disappeared person had been determined.

Mr. Ayat regretted that the Committee was not able to listen to the personal testimony of Reyna Patricia Ambros Zaptero of Mexico, who was not connected online, stressing the importance of these personal testimonies. He hoped they would be able to listen to her testimony at another meeting.

The Committee adopted the agenda and programme of work for the session.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found at the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 13 April, to consider the initial report of Switzerland (CED/C/CHE/1).

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/04/committee-enforced-disappearances-opens-twentieth-session-online