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Call for contributions for a thematic study by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on “Elections and Enforced Disappearances”

Issued by

Working Group on Disappearances

Deadline

26 February 2024

Purpose: At its 128th session, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (hereinafter, ‘the Working Group’) announced its intention to conduct a thematic study on the issue of elections and enforced disappearances. The thematic study will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2024 and aims at identifying tools that can be used to prevent and respond more effectively to enforced disappearances in the context of elections.

Portuguese version

Background

 There are many ways in which enforced disappearances can be linked to elections. The targets of enforced disappearances in the context of elections include candidates, their supporters, relatives, and ordinary people perceived as having a connection to the process. Victims of enforced disappearances in elections can also include those who support the electoral process, including electoral observers and electoral administrators. Individuals can also be forcibly disappeared during the electoral process as well as in the inter-electoral period, in the attempt to prevent them from running for office. The consequence of this practice is the undermining of the legitimacy of electoral processes and has a chilling effect on political and social dissent, including the participation in electoral related protests and demonstrations.

Over the years, the Working Group has documented cases of enforced disappearances occurred in the context of elections, and yet, it has not explored in-depth whether a link exists and, if so, its features. Cases registered with the Working Group include individuals who are active in local politics (or perceived as such) such as candidates, political activists, journalists and lawyers. From the outset, their enforced disappearance is reportedly aimed not only at deterring their participation in the political process but also at impacting the electoral results.

In the last two decades, there have been substantive studies on the issue of human rights violations in the context of elections in the academia, at the intergovernmental level, within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and from Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. However, the intersection between elections and enforced disappearances is yet to be the subject of a dedicated study.

Objectives:

The thematic study aims at examining the correlation between elections and enforced disappearances to identify tools that can be used to prevent and respond more effectively to these crimes, both through preventive and accountability mechanisms. The study aims at analysing the subject of elections and enforced disappearances by:

  1. Examining its scope, nature and specificities.
  2. Identifying the main challenges to investigation and accountability.
  3. Proposing recommendations to prevent and address enforced disappearances in the context of elections. 
Key questions and type of contributions requested:

Feel free to answer only the questions that are relevant for you.

  1. What are the distinctive features of electoral violence when compared to other forms of political violence?
  2. Do enforced disappearances in the context of elections follow a pattern? If so, please describe.
  3. Who are the victims of enforced disappearances in the context of elections? If possible, provide examples.
  4.  What is the rationale for committing enforced disappearances in the context of elections?
  5. What are the consequences of electoral violence? More specifically, how does the occurrence of electoral violence - including enforced disappearance – impact peoples ' perception of the electoral process and their willingness to participate in future elections?
  6. Have there been any enforced disappearances of actors who provide support to the electoral process? If so, how does it reflect on the electoral process?
  7. Is there any particular phase of the electoral cycle when enforced disappearances are more likely to occur? Do enforced disappearances committed prior, during or after the elections have different purposes?
  8. Can you provide information on the intersection between enforced disappearances in the context of elections and, inter alia, (i) gender; (ii) ethnicity; (iii) indigenous peoples (iv) armed conflict; (v) land and environment-related dispute?
  9. Are you aware of acts tantamount to enforced disappearances committed during the electoral process by non-State actors exercising Government-like functions or de facto control over territory and population?
  10. Provide any example of legislation that has been adopted with the view of hindering the access to justice and redress to victims of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances in the context of elections.
  11. Provide example of legislation that has facilitated the practice of enforced disappearance in the context of elections.
  12. What are the main obstacles for domestic and international accountability for enforced disappearances committed in the context of elections? Provide concrete examples of challenges encountered in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes. 
  13. What has been the role of the judiciary in safeguarding the rights of victims of enforced disappearances in the context of elections? Provide any examples of lack of judicial independence as well as attacks to judicial actors as a consequence of their work in this specific context.
  14. How can impunity for enforced disappearances committed in the context of elections be addressed more effectively?
  15. What measures could be put in place to prevent or reduce the risks as well as address the practice of enforced disappearances, including so-called “short-term” enforced disappearances in the electoral context?
  16. Please share any good practices and tools, including early warning mechanisms that can be used to address electoral violence, including enforced disappearances.
  17. Is there any other information that you deem relevant for the purposes of the thematic study?
Confidentiality:

The identity of sources submitting contributions to the Working Group is considered strictly confidential, unless consent to public disclosure is expressly indicated in the contribution. Public contributions will feature in the Working Group´s webpage after the deadline.

Next Steps

Receipt of inputs:
Input/comments may be sent by e-mail and should be received by 26 February 2024 (Deadline extended) .
Please, do not hesitate to circulate this invitation widely in your network.
We look forward to reading your contributions soon!

E-mail: [email protected]

File format: Word, PDF

Word limit: 2500 words

Accepted languages: English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

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