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Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances concludes its 117th session

Sarajevo, 15 February 2019

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) concluded its 117th session, held between 11 and 15 February 2019 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Working Group examined under its urgent action procedure 51 reported cases of enforced disappearances that have occurred in the last few months, concerning Bangladesh, Burundi, Egypt, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam. It also examined 758 cases, including newly-reported cases outside the urgent action procedure and updated information on previously accepted ones.  

Other countries whose cases were examined during the session are: Algeria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Belarus, Colombia, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iran, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, the Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

The Working Group also reviewed responses from various Governments to prompt intervention letters, general allegations and urgent appeals. It also adopted new general allegations and discussed their forthcoming and potential country visits.

The Working Group also discussed its forthcoming study on the effective investigation of enforced disappearances, as well as the issue of disappearances carried out by Non State Actors.

The experts met with family members of disappeared persons, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders. They also held meetings with representatives of the Governments of Croatia, Egypt, Japan and the Philippines. The Working Group also met with a number of relatives of disappeared and authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the Minister of Human Rights and Refugees, Ms. Semiha Borovac, as well as representatives of the Missing Persons Institute and the Office of the Prosecutor.

The Working Group also had the opportunity to pay tribute to the victims of human rights violations in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Srebrenica–Potočari and the Spomen Kosturnica memorials.

The Working Group thanks the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the invitation and appreciates the opportunity to hold one of its sessions in Sarajevo. It also thanks the United Nations office of the Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the support provided.

The issue of missing persons continues to be an open wound not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in all the Western Balkans. The Working Group visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010 and undertook a visit to the Western Balkans in 20141. As it did then, the Working Group stresses today the regional dimension of this issue, and emphasizes that concrete results on the matter of missing persons in the region can only be achieved through sincere and transparent cooperation among all concerned stakeholders and the depoliticization of the matter, which should be treated as a human rights and humanitarian issue.

The Working Group is therefore seriously concerned by information it received from a number of stakeholders that there is a worsening polarization, and an increase in divisive and destabilizing rhetoric. The Working Group calls the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Governments of the region and the international community as a whole to work towards effective cooperation, to achieve reconciliation. The Working Group also emphasizes that truth and justice for enforced disappearances are a precondition for lasting peace, while a lack of action to address them fosters a culture of impunity, which - in turn - may encourage further human rights violations in the future.  

The Working Group will hold its 118th session in Geneva, from 13 to 22 May 2019.

(*) Check the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

ENDS

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea); other members are Ms. Houria Es-Slami (Morocco), Mr. Luciano Hazan (Argentina) and Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania).

The Working Group was established by the 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 continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. The Working Group also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

More information on the Working Group

How to submit cases to the Working Group?

Read the Working Group’s 2015 report to the UN Human Rights Council and post-sessional documents

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Ugo Cedrangolo (+41 22 9179286, ucedrangolo@ohchr.org or wgeid@ohchr.org)

Note:

1. See A/HRC/27/49/Add.2 and A/HRC/39/46/Add.2