GENEVA (12 September 2018) - The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and the Working Group on arbitrary detention.
Introducing the report, Bernard Duhaime, Chair of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, said that this year the Committee had transmitted 802 new cases of enforced disappearances to 42 States, and urged the Council had to seriously tackle the issue. The Working Group’s interim report outlined standards and public policies for an effective investigation of enforced disappearances. In the study on seeing how States fulfilled the obligation to establish a solid legal framework in the area of the investigation of enforced disappearance, the Working Group would deal with disappearances in the context of transitional justice. He also spoke about the Working Group’s visits to The Gambia and Ukraine.
The Gambia spoke as a concerned country.
Seong-Phil Hong, Chair of the Working Group on arbitrary detention, said one of the thematic reports explored the issue of consular assistance and diplomatic protection for persons deprived of liberty. Consular assistance was deemed essential to protect detainees from torture and ill-treatment, in particular in the case of alleged crimes against the State, such as terrorism, espionage or treason. Second, the Working Group had become increasingly mindful of the linkages between arbitrary detention and instances of torture and ill-treatment. Instances of extraction of confessions through ill-treatment and torture had been observed. Mr. Hong spoke about the Working Group’s visits to Argentina and Sri Lanka.
Argentina and Sri Lanka spoke as concerned countries.
In the ensuing discussion on enforced disappearances, speakers stressed their support to the work of the Working Group and called for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. They voiced concern that enforced disappearances were used on the pretext of combatting terrorism, adding that the increase in the number of cases of enforced disappearances across the world was alarming, particularly short-term enforced disappearances, which were often used as a means of intimidation.
On the issue of arbitrary detention, speakers concurred that authorities which detained persons had to do so in a manner that was prescribed by the law and with safeguards in place against human rights violations. Reprisals against human rights defenders were particularly worrying as was the arbitrary detention of migrants. Speakers also welcomed the Working Group’s attention to diplomatic protection and consular assistance. Some countries raised concern that Special Procedures sometimes based their opinions on false accusations, which was unacceptable.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Togo on behalf of the African Group, European Union, Egypt, Palestine, Montenegro, France, Pakistan, Switzerland, Tunisia, Denmark, Russia, Philippines, Australia, Bolivia, Sudan, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Iran, Iraq, Chile, Angola, Algeria, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, Mexico, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Serbia, Oman, Lebanon, Nigeria, The Gambia, Tanzania, Peru, Canada, and Vanuatu.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Conseil national des droits de l’homme of Morocco, International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), Alsalam Foundation, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, International Catholic Child Bureau, Lutheran World Federation, European Centre for Law and Justice, Friends World Committee for Consultation Quakers, International Bar Association, Together against the death penalty, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance, African Development Association and Pan African Union for Science and Technology.
The Council will meet next to hear the presentation of reports by the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the rights of peoples to self-determination, and by the Special Rapporteur on hazardous waste.
The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (A/HRC/39/46).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances - mission to The Gambia (A/HRC/39/46/Add.1).
The Council has before it a follow-up Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to its recommendations made after its visit to Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo (A/HRC/39/46/Add.2).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances – comments by The Gambia (A/HRC/39/46/Add.3).
The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (A/HRC/39/45).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - mission to Argentina (A/HRC/39/45/Add.1).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - mission to Sri Lanka (A/HRC/39/45/Add.2).
Presentation of Reports by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
BERNARD DUHAIME, Chair of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, said that this year the Working Group had transmitted 802 new cases of enforced disappearances to 42 States, out of which 264 cases had been transmitted under the urgent procedure. There were many cases which had not reached and probably would never reach the Working Group. Enforced disappearance was a crime and an offense to human dignity, and it continued to be used in many countries. The Council had to do more to seriously tackle this issue. An additional 43 communications had been transmitted to a number of States, including allegations of harassment, threats and reprisals against human rights defenders. States were called on to act urgently to search for people who had been subjected to enforced disappearances. The Working Group’s interim report outlined standards and public policies for an effective investigation of enforced disappearances. In the study on seeing how States fulfilled the obligation to establish a solid legal framework in the area of investigation of enforced disappearance, the Working Group would deal with disappearances in the context of transitional justice. It would also study how investigations should be carried out when victims were exposed to situations of vulnerability, such as often in the case of children, women, migrants, human rights defenders, indigenous people and social leaders. Through the thematic study, the Working Group aimed to recognize good practices and be able to detect negative experiences.
Turning to country visits, Mr. Duhaime thanked the Government of Mali for the invitation to visit which was scheduled for the last quarter of 2018. The visit to Sudan was postponed due to a lack of understanding about the terms of reference and it was regrettable that the Government never officially confirmed the visit. During the visit to The Gambia, it was noted that little progress had been made in advancing investigations, including the search for burial sites, and identification of the remains of victims. Nonetheless, positive steps were noted such as establishment of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. However, transitional justice mechanisms could not replace judicial prosecution. There was a need for The Gambia to finalize the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. In June, the Working Group had visited Ukraine, and the report would be due for September 2019. Still, the Working Group had presented extensive observations and recommendations at the end of the visit. Decisive measures had to be taken to assist the family members who were looking for their loved ones. The prohibition of enforced disappearance was absolute and had to be respected by the de-facto authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The Working Group had also included follow-up reports to visits in 2014 to Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo. The Working Group noted that little progress had been made vis-à-vis recommendations to Governments and authorities at the regional level to depoliticize the issue of missing persons and treat it as a human rights and humanitarian issue. A welcomed step was the creation of the Regional Database of Active Missing Person Cases from the Armed Conflicts in the Former Yugoslavia, with the support of the International Commission of Missing Persons and the participation of Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. Kosovo authorities did not yet provide information. In closing, the Chair expressed gratitude for the support provided through voluntary contributions by donor States, notably Argentina, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Discussions with Bosnia and Herzegovina were underway to have the one hundred and seventeenth session of the Working Group in Sarajevo. All States were called on to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
SEONG-PHIL HONG, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, stated that the Working Group continued to address the large number of submissions received in 2017, and set as a priority the adoption of opinions, striving to uphold the trust of victims, who continued to seek its assistance to remedy violations of their right to liberty. The Working Group was informed by States that an increasing number of detainees had been released. It had worked on its communication procedure in order to receive and respond to requests for action more effectively. He welcomed the increased cooperation from States under its regular communications procedure.
Turning to the two thematic reports, Mr. Hong said the Working Group had been exploring the issue of consular assistance and diplomatic protection for persons deprived of liberty. Non-national defendants and detainees were particularly vulnerable to violations of the right to a fair trial. Consular assistance was deemed essential to protect detainees from torture and ill-treatment, in particular in the case of alleged crimes against the State, such as terrorism, espionage or treason. Second, the Working Group had become increasingly mindful of the linkages between arbitrary detention and instances of torture and ill-treatment. Through its jurisprudence and country visits, it had become aware that the safeguards that States were required to put in place played a crucial role in preventing instances of arbitrary detention. It consistently maintained that incommunicado detention constituted arbitrary detention. In its jurisprudence, the Working Group frequently observed instances of extraction of confessions through ill-treatment and torture. The Working Group recommended the independent oversight over all places of deprivation of liberty. In November 2017, the Group had adopted its revised deliberation No. 5 on the deprivation of liberty of migrants, accounting for the changes in international law and the increasing use of detention in the context of migration.
In 2017, the Working Group undertook a visit in Argentina, visiting 20 places of deprivation of liberty. Positive changes had been observed, such as the launch of the justice 2020 programme, aimed at strengthening relevant institutions in order to guarantee justice for all. The pattern of arrests by the police on the basis of a suspicion of crime was identified as being discriminatory against those in situations of vulnerability, especially migrants and sexual minorities. The Working Group expressed its concern over the widespread use of police stations to hold detainees for prolonged periods, despite the existence of relevant legislative provisions, as well as over the use of force by guards. It welcomed the efforts to establish a coherent juvenile justice system at the federal level. The Working Group was informed of deprivation of liberty in the context of public and social protests by indigenous peoples, union members and members of political and social movements. It had identified numerous instances when “social patients” who did not have resources or social network to live in the community, were confined to psychiatric institutions.
The Working Group also visited Sri Lanka in 2017. It had been informed of many positive changes in relation to the deprivation of liberty in Sri Lanka, including the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in January 2018. However, deprivation of liberty had been observed as being a systematic response in a wide variety of situations that were not absolutely prescribed by the law. Mr. Hong called upon the authorities to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which had led to numerous severe restrictions on the right to fair trial. Systematic problems had been identified regarding rehabilitation and the detention of vulnerable members of society on discriminatory grounds. The Working Group acknowledged the dire situation of asylum-seekers in Sri Lanka.
In conclusion, Mr. Hong reasserted the vocation of the Working Group to serve the needs of victims of arbitrary detention, for which Member States must be held accountable, thus inviting the said States to increase their cooperation with the Group.
Statements by Concerned Countries
The Gambia, speaking as a concerned country, commended the Council in its mission to protect human rights globally and thanked the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances for their visit and their recommendations. The Government of The Gambia accepted the recommendations and remained committed to work to improve the situation on the ground. The International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances had been ratified. The Gambia had also made progress in its Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, which comprised of 12 members.
Argentina, speaking as a concerned country, was pleased by the visit of the Working Group on arbitrary detention in 2017. The report recognized the cooperation of the Argentinian authorities and contributions made by different stakeholders as well as the unrestricted access to all facilities. Positive measures and good practices were also recognized. Argentina voiced concern that the report mentioned critical situations relating to the care of elderly persons, although laws were being amended currently. Argentina had a standing invitation to all Special Procedure mandate holders. Alternative measures had been carried out in some provinces, though there were still problems. As for decree on emergency and urgency, the decree had not altered the migration policies or the rights enshrined for migrants. There were difficulties in implementing expulsion orders for illegal migrants. Argentina was fully committed towards implementing its international human rights obligations and was ready to take on board recommendations which were issued.
Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, said that so far eight Special Procedure mandate holders had visited Sri Lanka and six reviews of periodic reports submitted by Sri Lanka had taken place. Implementation priorities were arising from the recommendations reflected in the five-year national human rights action plan. A number of positive developments had taken place in the area of strengthening the rule of law. Sri Lanka had acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and had made a declaration under Article 22 of the Convention against Torture subscribing to the communication procedure of the treaty body. Persons deprived of liberty were accordingly guaranteed.
Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the attention given by the Working Group on arbitrary detention to diplomatic protection and consular assistance and underlined the provisions of the African Charter in the respect. On enforced disappearances, the African Group noted that relevant inquires needed to be done in consultation with the involved stakeholders. European Union shared concern about the increased number of enforced disappearances across the world, and called on all countries to fully cooperate with the Working Group. On arbitrary detention, it expressed satisfaction with the relatively high return rate, and it called on States to show respect for the mandate of the Working Group. Egypt emphasized the importance of the mandate of the Working Group on enforced disappearances, adding that it was concerned about the misuse of that mechanism by certain parties for political reasons. On arbitrary detention, Egypt rejected notifications from unreliable sources and voiced concern about the misuse of the Working Group.
State of Palestine reminded that Israel continued to systematically detain Palestinians; on average 20 Palestinians were detained every night. Israel’s administrative detention orders were unlawfully renewed and extended on an ad hoc basis, and were politically motivated. Montenegro emphasized the crucial role of the Working Group on enforced disappearances, adding that the resolution of the problem of missing persons as a result of armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia was above all a human rights problem of vital importance for the families of missing persons. France regretted that enforced disappearances remained a problem worldwide and it called on all States to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. It also welcomed the mandate of the Working Group on arbitrary detention and invited all countries to cooperate with it.
Pakistan said it had taken steps to investigate and remedy any alleged case of enforced or involuntary disappearances or arbitrary detention. Pakistan had been constructively engaged with the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances through the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, established on the Supreme Court’s directive. Switzerland deemed that the work accomplished by the two Working Groups was essential, but regretted that the situation was worsening. It stated that both reports clearly showed which countries could be held accountable in order to improve the situation. Tunisia emphasized the importance of pursuing efforts against the crimes of enforced or involuntary disappearances and arbitrary detention that also threatened other rights. It agreed with the Working Group on arbitrary detention on the importance of consular assistance and the presence of close links between the absence of trial and torture.
Denmark called itself an active supporter of the global fight against torture and other ill-treatment, and commended the cooperation between the Working Group against arbitrary detention and other United Nations bodies. Russia called for an impartial approach and was concerned about cases recorded by international groups about systematic arbitrary detention in Ukraine. Russia drew attention to the astonishing conduct of the United States and the United Kingdom over the abduction of people in third countries and invited these countries to listen to complaints and cease their violations of human rights. Philippines reiterated that its Government did not tolerate enforced or involuntary disappearances, and dealt with all complaints through the appropriate administrative bodies. The Philippines maintained its resolve to address the challenge of enforced disappearance, which was reflected with the enactment of the Anti-Enforced Involuntary Disappearance Law, or Republic Act in December 2012.
Japan noted that enforced disappearances had to be tackled as an important universal human rights issue, and strongly urged all States that had not yet done so to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Japan also called attention to the Japanese citizens abducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea decades ago. Croatia reminded that it was still searching for 1,922 missing Croatian citizens of Croatian and Serbian ethnicity. It was also still searching for 150 citizens of Serbia and 120 citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Without genuine cooperation in the region, further progress simply would not be possible. Fiji said that it was mindful of the link between arbitrary detention and torture. It had taken steps to ensure that the authorities which detained persons did so in a manner that was prescribed by the law and with safeguards in place against human rights violations. Every detained person had access to competent independent legal advice.
China firmly rejected arbitrary detention, noting that its Constitution explicitly stipulated that citizens could not be detained unlawfully. Special Procedure mandate holders should rely on true and reliable information, and refrain from interfering into countries’ internal affairs, and from trying to exonerate persons who had committed crimes. Cuba reiterated its support for the mandate of the Working Group on enforced disappearances, and emphasized that no enforced disappearances had taken place in Cuba in decades. On arbitrary detention, Cuba drew attention to the fact that sometimes opinions grounded on false accusations were used by Special Procedures, which was unacceptable. Ukraine shared the opinion of the Working Group on arbitrary detention that consular assistance was a preventive mechanism, and it voiced concern that the number of cases of arbitrary detention of Ukrainian citizens had increased in Russia. On enforced disappearances, Ukraine informed that it had adopted a law on the legal status of missing persons.
Australia said it opposed arbitrary detention and provided consular assistance to Australians deprived of liberty overseas. Australia was looking forward to engaging with the Working Group on arbitrary detention during their visit in 2019. Bolivia was worried about the increase in the number of enforced disappearances in the world, particularly by those committed by non-state actors. Sudan said it was working to ensure that international standards were in place to protect people from enforced disappearances. The national security law sanctioned arbitrary detention
Venezuela said that its Constitution prohibited enforced disappearances, even under a state of emergency. The Working Group on arbitrary detention had demonstrated bias in their report, seeking to purposefully attack Venezuela. Costa Rica said that the large number of communications received demonstrated the danger posed by arbitrary detention. Did the Working Group have any information on the percentage of detentions during protests and demonstrations? Iran noted that the prohibition of arbitrary detention of migrants had to be observed by all States. Concern was raised that enforced disappearances were used on the pretext of combatting terrorism during the so-called war on terror.
Iraq stated that a number of complaints about disappearances were in fact about people who were in Daesh. Iraq stressed its will to comply with its commitment to stop arbitrary detention, as it was still trying to repair the damage done by the previous regime. Chile stressed that the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in Chile had been clarified, and reiterated its will to further its cooperation with the Working Group. On arbitrary detentions, Chile welcomed the efforts to perfect the monitoring procedure and it shared the Working Group’s view about the importance of consular assistance.
Remarks by the Chairs of the Working Groups
BERNARD DUHAIME, Chair of the Working Group on enforced disappearances, thanked The Gambia for having cooperated with the Working Group and for having accepted its recommendations. Some progress had already been made, but a lot still remained to be done and the Working Group was ready to assist. He reiterated the previous recommendations made to Sri Lanka in 2016, and commended it for legislative amendments and institutional measures, namely the creation of an office for missing persons. Mr. Duhaime said that the Working Group was grateful for the many communications received by States. However, there was still an obligation to investigate and sanction all alleged cases of enforced disappearances. A case in point was alleged disappearances of human rights defenders in Egypt. Mr. Duhaime was glad to hear that the fight against impunity was a concern for the new Government in Pakistan. However, reprisals against human rights defenders still needed to be addressed. Responding to comments by the Russian Federation, Mr. Duhaime clarified that a full report on Ukraine would be issued in 2019. The fight against the drug trade in the Philippines could be a fertile ground for enforced disappearances, Mr. Duhaime cautioned. As for enforced disappearances in the context of migration, the Working Group had already published a study on that issue and had provided specific recommendations. Mr. Duhaime reiterated that the Working Group acted in accordance with relevant Human Rights Council resolutions, and it analyzed allegations in an independent and impartial manner.
SEONG-PHIL HONG, Chair of the Working Group on arbitrary detention, said that he was encouraged by the received comments. On the enhancement of working methods, the Working Group was trying to work more efficiently. Its aims were predictability, objectivity and fairness. Mr. Hong explained that the thematic issue on consular assistance was in focus due to the greater occurrence of grave violations of fair trial. The link between torture and arbitrary detention should be tackled with more focus. There was an increasing emergence of deprivation of liberty in not only prisons, but also in migration centres and medical institutions. It was perpetrated not only by State actors, but also by private actors, and it happened even to children. Mr. Hong appreciated the positive comments about the need for more cooperation and coordination among countries in communications, urgent appeals, and country visits. Responding to the questions about the rates of deprivation of liberty due to peaceful demonstrations, Mr. Hong noted that there were more and more people deprived of their liberty because of their exercise of the freedom of expression and assembly. Human rights defenders were routinely subjected to some form of detention. On the issue of credibility of information, the Group tried to be fair and objective. The Group did not make judgments alone; it heard a lot from other Special Procedures and regional human rights bodies, Mr. Hong stressed.
Angola noted that over 800 cases of enforced disappearances registered in 40 countries illustrated the reality, which was difficult to understand. It also reinforced the need to strengthen the Working Group’s methods. Algeria recalled the painful disappearances in the nineties, which continued to be treated under the Peace and Reconciliation Charter. Algeria cooperated with the Working Group on arbitrary detention and was responding to its appeals. Bahrain said its courts and criminal justice system were entirely independent and impartial and the judicial authorities guaranteed a fair and equal trial for all litigants.
Belgium shared concern about the global rise of short-term enforced disappearances, which were often used as a means of intimidation or retaliation. Could the Working Group on arbitrary detention elaborate its strategic approach to fight torture through liaising with the Committee against Torture? Greece shared concern that the number of enforced disappearances continued to be unacceptably high worldwide. The thematic focus on the linkages between arbitrary detention and instances of torture and ill-treatment was welcomed. Mexico said it had an ongoing constructive dialogue with the Working Group and was seeking to prevent enforced disappearances. In 2017, a law on enforced disappearances had been adopted in line with international standards.
Afghanistan said it valued the measures taken by the Working Groups to follow-up on alleged violations of human rights. Afghanistan asked for recommendations to prevent violations of human rights and reiterated its continued engagement with the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearance. Ecuador recognized that the right to truth and memory was overarching and concerned not just victims of human rights violations, but the whole country. As such, the country’s legislation recognized enforced disappearances as an autonomous crime, bolstered by robust laws to protect all Ecuadorians. Serbia highlighted their commitment to providing solutions to the problem of enforced or involuntary disappearances but noted that it was a regional problem requiring regional approaches, regional cooperation and regional responsibility. Through their War Crimes Prosecutor Office, Serbia had already taken steps to investigate war crimes.
Oman said that they did not consider the opinion of the Working Group on arbitrary detention as accurate pertaining to Oman. They asked for respect for the independence of their laws and the sovereignty of their State, adding that they had a distinguished record with regard to human rights. Lebanon, after taking note of both reports, said that the Lebanese continued working with the relevant authorities with a desire to improving human rights in the country. They persisted positively and transparently in their correspondence with the Office, even in the face of regional difficulties. Nigeria stressed that all detentions within their territory were carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and other relevant laws. Actions of the Boko Haram terrorist group made security difficult but Nigeria remained committed to ensuring that all its citizens enjoyed full access to human rights.
The Gambia noted that it was committed to review its laws with respect to arrest and detention. In cooperation with civil society, it was conducting human rights training for police officers and staff, as well as intelligence staff, who had been stripped of all powers of arrest and detention. Tanzania recognized that any arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance of a person was a violation of human rights. Its national criminal laws were in line with the right to equality under the law and the right to a fair trial, as provided for by the Constitution. Peru said that it had made significant efforts to search for missing persons and to implement reconciliation measures. It also had a national plan for the search for missing persons, whereas its national human rights plan 2018-2021 afforded special protection to victims of violence that had taken place between 1980 and 2000.
Canada welcomed Sri Lanka’s operationalization of the Office for Missing Persons. However, it was imperative that Sri Lanka establish, without delay, a truth and reconciliation commission, a reparations programme and a special accountability mechanism. Vanuatu drew attention to the ongoing enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention of the indigenous people of West Papua, particularly of those who spoke about West Papua’s claims to self-determination. It called on Indonesia to allow access of United Nations mechanisms to report about that problem.
Conseil National des droit de l’homme of Morocco shared its methodology of looking into cases of enforced disappearances, combining grassroots inquiry with documentary research. Public hearings were organized in six regions of Morocco to hear the victims. International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) stressed that the Prevention of Terrorism Act had caused horrendous human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. The Act had been used disproportionately against the Tamil community and had contributed to reported cases of arbitrary arrest and detention. Alsalam Foundation welcomed the connection between arbitrary detention and torture, which was particularly evident in Bahrain. Enforced disappearances, incommunicado detention, and torture-induced confessions were frequently documented such as in the case of a mass terrorism trial in which 115 Bahrainis were convicted.
Asian Legal Resource Centre said it had been documenting enforced disappearances in many Asian countries. Hundreds of citizens were disappearing in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and their criminal justice systems were complicit as no one was prosecuted and victims had no protection. Mouvement contre le racism et pour l’amitie entre les peoples drew the Council’s attention to the situation in Western Sahara where enforced disappearances and mass graves continued to rise under Moroccan occupation. The Working Group was asked to look into crimes committed in the Western Sahara, as there were over 800 cases of enforced disappearances. Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspoliitk talked about prisoners of conscience not receiving any medical assistance in Iran, as well as women human rights defenders and activists who were working on ethnic rights and fighting environmental causes.
International Catholic Child Bureau said they had witnessed an increased focus on the deprivation of liberty of children in all settings. They welcomed the recognition that detaining children because of their parents’ migration status violated the principle of the best interests of the child and supported the call to seek alternatives to the detention of the entire family. Lutheran World Federation expressed concern about the degrading situation in Nicaragua where human rights defenders were criminalised, arbitrary detention was rampant and access to justice was not guaranteed. The Federation asked that the United Nations urge the Government of Nicaragua to take action against human rights violations committed in the country. European Centre for Law and Justice directed the Council’s attention to the plight of Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, an American detained unjustly in Turkey for nearly two years and used as a political bargaining chip. Nearly 600,000 people worldwide had signed a petition in support the release of Pastor Andrew, whose detention violated Turkey’s obligations under the United Nations Charter.
Friends World Committee for Consultation Quakers said that clarity on the criteria for the lawful use of immigration detention was needed to avoid the overuse and misuse of detention for migrants. They reminded the Council that conditions for the lawful use of immigration detention were reflected in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, due for adoption in December. International Bar Association said that thousands of people had disappeared in Syrian detention centres without any information about their whereabouts. Families were not informed about the fate of their relatives and no investigations had been conducted into disappearances. Syria should, they said, ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and stop those practices. Together against the death penalty said that the Kurdish community was one of the most suppressed groups in Iran. Since 2018, more than 400 Kurdish citizens had been arbitrarily detained and their whereabouts undocumented. They urged the Working Group and the Council to take the matter seriously and to press Iran to return the bodies of Kurdish political prisoners to their families.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation commended the Working Group on arbitrary detention for its decision on a man from Tajikistan who had been forcibly moved to his military unit. That decision had been legally baseless and there was no judicial oversight, and constituted discrimination on the basis of religious belief as a Jehovah Witness. Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance drew attention to enforced disappearances in the Philippines and the lack of prosecution for those crimes. Impunity was weakening the rule of law and the conduct of relevant authorities, as well as the unwillingness of the victims to speak out against crimes.
African Development Association spoke about the enforced disappearances taking place in the Tindouf camps in the presence of Algerian authorities, who had failed to guarantee the basic rights of the Saharawi people. There had been no prosecutions against those responsible for the committed human rights violations. Pan African Union for Science and Technology drew attention to the use by Pakistan’s military of arbitrary detention and torture. The Government did nothing to stop such practices used against journalists and lawyers.
BERNARD DUHAIME, Chair of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, began by thanking Nigeria for their invitation to conduct a country visit; however, they were still in negotiations to finalize the ways and means for the visit to occur. They hoped that the visit would occur within the year. Accolades were given to Belgium, which had allowed the Working Group to hold a public event, thus raising the profile of the issue of enforced and involuntary disappearances. Mr. Duhaime looked forward to another event in Sarajevo. He also congratulated Mexico on passing a law in 2017 concerning enforced disappearances and expressed his hope that the National Search Committee would have all the financial and human resources provided to it as well as proper implementation measures in place. He congratulated Ecuador on its legislation to prohibit enforced disappearances, as well as providing a path for victims to seek reparations.
He agreed with Serbia that enforced disappearances did indeed require a regional approach, which needed to be conducted with equality and non-discrimination. In Lebanon, he was pleased that enforced disappearances had become a preoccupation of the State. The fact that Nigeria was willing to engage both Working Groups on their respective mandates was a positive step. He congratulated Peru as well and non-governmental organizations for their invaluable input. He asked to receive additional information as to the current study on practices and other measures to be adopted with reference to enforced disappearances. Also, he stressed that organizations with cases concerning enforced disappearances should submit their queries in writing.
Mr. Duhaime, reiterating his solidarity with the families of disappeared persons, saluted them on their hard work, which was not only important but very dangerous. He also said that the Working Group had great interest in continuing dialogues with States by participating in more country visits. He concluded by encouraging all States to ratify the 2016 Convention and reiterated that enforced disappearances were a crime and a violation of human dignity. They needed to stop.
SEONG-PHIL HONG, Chair of the Working Group in arbitrary detention, informed that Hungary had invited the Working Group for a country visit in November 2018. In addition, Bhutan had invited the Working Group for a country visit in January 2019. On liaising with human rights mechanisms on torture, Mr. Hong explained that there was a factual and legal link between the issues of torture and arbitrary detention. Addressing concern about mass trials, he said that the Working Group only spoke through its opinions and that it tried to be very careful about taking an official stance prior to making relevant verifications. With respect to the submissions by civil society, Mr. Hong thanked civil society representatives for having spoken about individual victims, and for having presented policy recommendations. The Working Group met three times per year and every August it met with non-governmental organizations. Civil society was becoming more professional, swift and effective. The Working Group had a great need for its assistance.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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