Call for inputs with a view to issuing a joint statement on the notion of short-term enforced disappearance
16 August 2023
Submissions now online (See below)
16 August 2023
Submissions now online (See below)
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances (‘the Committee’) and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (‘the Working Group’) have decided to circulate a call for inputs with a view to issuing a joint statement on the notion of short-term enforced disappearance.
At its 23rd session (September 2022), the Committee adopted a concept note in which it discussed the issue, defined the objectives and possible scope of its future statement, and agreed to pursue this project jointly with the Working Group.
The Committee and the Working Group invite all interested parties, such as Member States, victims, civil society organizations, national human rights institutions, United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms, Regional Human Rights Mechanisms, United Nations Country Teams, academic institutions, and others, to submit written contributions by 31 July 2023. Contributions can be both country-specific, or of a general nature.
The Committee and the Working Group will consider the inputs received in preparing their joint statement.
1. The Committee, the Working Group and other international human rights mechanisms dealing with the issue of enforced disappearance have identified for the past two decades, in various regions of the world, patterns of enforced disappearances of persons after they have been apprehended by agents of the State, for short periods of time, even less than a day. The Committee and the Working Group have insisted that there is no duration requirement for an enforced disappearance to occur.
2. In some instances, such acts are not admitted or recognized by State authorities, while in other instances the States argue that these deprivations of liberty, at times followed by the transfer of the person to unknown locations and the refusal to provide information on their situation, obey to the implementation of national security plans and strategies to combat terrorism, organized crime or alleged attacks against State institutions; the lack of institutional capacity to process large numbers of detainees expeditiously; or the need to control demonstrations that turn violent.
3. In general, these cases tend to be presented by State authorities simply as detentions for investigative purposes or to determine the identity or background of the person deprived of liberty, emphasizing on many occasions that to be held in incommunicado detention in this type of circumstances may be necessary and is not prohibited by international human rights law, whilst in other situations, the State denies the deprivation of liberty altogether.
4. In this regard, in its views on the Yrusta v. Argentina case, the Committee held that “[…] in order to constitute an enforced disappearance, the deprivation of liberty must be followed by a refusal to acknowledge such deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law, regardless of the duration of the said deprivation of liberty or concealment”.1
5. In recent years, the Committee has increasingly received allegations of the use of such a practice in States parties to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (‘the Convention’), in the context of public protests or national security control activities, and afterwards the concealment of detainees and information about their whereabouts. The Working Group has received similar allegations, including with respect to States which are not parties to the Convention. Other international human rights bodies have also been alerted of similar situations in several States for over a decade.
6. In 2010, the joint study on global practices in relation to secret detention in the context of counterterrorism prepared by several Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council found that "[a]ny case of secret detention also amounts to a case of enforced disappearance".2
7. In its 2014 annual report, the Working Group referred to “the existence of a persistent pattern of disappearances for short periods of time in several countries.”3 Likewise, in its 2015 annual report, the Working Group reported the registration in 2014 of 66 urgent actions in relation to what it identified as a pattern of short-term disappearances.4 On the same occasion, the Working Group expressed its deep concern about this phenomenon, and stressed that there is no minimum time, however short, to consider that an enforced disappearance has occurred, and that accurate information on the detention of any person deprived of liberty and on his or her place of detention should be provided without delay to relatives. In the report in question, the Working Group noted that the international community had been observing this phenomenon for at least a decade at that time.5
8. In a 2016 joint statement for the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances the Committee and the Working Group noted that "[t]here is no time limit, no matter how short, for an enforced disappearance to occur. Every minute counts when a person is placed outside the protection of the law. And when a person has disappeared, every minute of anguish spent by his or her relatives without news of him or her is too much [...]".6
9. With this background, the Committee and the Working Group have decided to reflect jointly on this subject and to issue a statement to respond, inter alia, to the following questions:
Please, do not hesitate to circulate this invitation widely in your network.
We look forward to reading your contributions.
Contributions shall be sent by e-mail and should be received by 15 August 2023.
Please provide your name (if applicable, title of your organization) and contact details, including your email address in case we need to contact you in connection with this call for inputs.
Please note that all contributions received will be published on the websites of the Committee and the Working Group, unless you expressly indicate that the submission should be kept confidential.