The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) concluded its 124th session, which took place remotely between 17 and 21 May 2021.
During the session, the Working Group examined 15 reported cases of enforced disappearances it had transmitted under its urgent procedure since the previous session in February 2021, concerning Egypt, India, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, and Saudi Arabia.
It also reviewed 397 cases, including newly reported cases outside the urgent procedure, and updated information on previously transmitted cases concerning Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Egypt, El Salvador, India, Iran, Libya, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Pakistan, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.
In the spirit of its humanitarian mandate, the Working Group continued to document and discuss acts tantamount to enforced disappearances, perpetrated by non-state actors.
The experts met with relatives of disappeared persons, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders. They also held meetings with representatives of the Governments of Armenia, Cyprus, Japan, Kenya, Pakistan, Portugal and The Gambia. On the last day of the session, the Working Group also met with the heads of the national search mechanisms of El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.
During the session, the Working Group reviewed responses from various Governments to prompt intervention letters, general allegations and urgent appeals. It examined new general allegations and discussed its future and potential country visits, particularly the forthcoming one to Cyprus (21-30 June 2021).
The experts also reviewed the upcoming reports to be presented to the September 2021 session of the Human Rights Council, notably the annual report, the thematic report on enforced disappearances occurring in the context of extraterritorial operations, and the follow-up reports to past visits to Albania and The Gambia.
During the session, the Working Group continued to review a number of situations of concern, which it has been following closely since its last session in February.
The Working Group remains concerned about the violent crackdown on peaceful protests in Colombia since 28 April, including allegations of enforced disappearances. It reiterates its call to the Government to swiftly disclose the whereabouts of all detained persons and to engage in dialogue to deescalate tensions.
The Working Group also continues to monitor closely the situation in Myanmar, including disturbing reports of individuals detained since the start of the military coup on 1 February, and those whose whereabouts remain unknown. It reiterates its call on the international community to continue to push for the respect of the will of the people of Myanmar and for the peaceful return of the power to the civilian government.2
The Working Group has also been following worrying developments in Uganda, including reports of widespread and continued repression against opposition leaders and instances of enforced disappearance. It has called on the Government to immediately stop the concealing of information concerning individuals arrested in the context of the general elections and to immediately reveal their fate and whereabouts.3
The decisions made by the Working Group during the 124th session will be reflected in its next
The Working Group will hold its 125th session from 20 to 29 September 2021.
The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances comprises five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea); and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania), other members are Ms. Aua Balde (Guinea- Bissau); Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada) and Luciano Hazan (Argentina).
The Working Group was established by the then 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 persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance .
The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
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