When Ariel Dulitzky walked into the Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he wasn’t merely attending a session of the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. He faced the ghosts and memories of his own family history.
Dulitzky, who chairs the Working Group, is Argentinian and the Navy School of Mechanics is the former site of one of the largest clandestine detention and torture centres that operated in the country. Dulitzky had two cousins disappeared in the 1970s and there was information that one of those cousins was held in ESMA. “It is a very, very powerful experience,” he said.
The Working Group was in Argentina to hold its 105th session. The session also marked the 35th anniversary of the foundation of the Group, which was created as a direct response to the disappearances in Argentina. The Working Group, which consists of five experts, was the first of its kind created to investigate an issue – in this case enforced or involuntary disappearances – anywhere in the world, rather than focus on human rights violations in a specific country.
The Working Group has in the past appealed all States to fully support the families of disappeared people and the organizations working on their behalf. The Group said it was essential that families of the disappeared and the organizations working on their behalf are fully supported by States.
There are still more than 43,000 cases in the Working Group’s database of disappeared. The Working Group is on record stating that the crime continues until they can account for every single person.
During the session in Argentina, the Group examined more than 700 cases from 41 countries. It also met with relatives of those who have disappeared, civil society representatives and different State authorities.
It is hoped that the session in Argentina would do two things: First, it would give the Working Group a chance to reconnect with some of the local human rights organizations that it had worked with in the early days, such as the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.
Second, it would show that a country that has been steeped in a culture of violence and disappearances can start to make changes for the better.
10 March 2015