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Enforced Disappearances: UN experts study over 400 cases, 17 under their urgent action procedure

Enforced disappearances

09 November 2012

GENEVA (9 November 2012) – The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances* examined 17 reported cases of enforced disappearance under its urgent action procedure, as well as more than 400 cases, including newly-submitted cases and previously accepted ones.

During its 98th session held in Geneva, from 31 October to 9 November 2012, the independent human rights experts studied cases, including urgent actions, concerning Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Georgia, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kenya, Laos, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.

“The Working Group deals with cases of enforced disappearances wherever they occur,” the experts said at the end of the Group’s session, expressing their “deepest concern that after 20 years since the adoption of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, enforced disappearances continue to occur in many countries, often in a persistent manner.”

On 30 and 31 October 2012, the Working Group held an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Declaration. The event focused on the impact of enforced disappearances on women as well as on the role of women as actors of change. The second day of the event was devoted to an open dialogue between the Working Group and States concerning the challenges and best practices in implementation of the Declaration.

During its session, the group of independent experts focused on, among other issues, reparations, specific country situations, in particular regarding the obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration, methods of work, past and potential country visits, as well as future activities. The members also adopted two general comments: one on women affected by enforced disappearances and the other on children and enforced disappearances.

The experts examined allegations submitted by credible sources regarding obstacles encountered in implementation of the Declaration. The Working Group also reviewed responses from various Governments to prompt intervention letters, urgent appeals and general allegations.

The expert panel held meetings with representatives of the Governments of Guatemala, Japan, Spain, Sri Lanka and Togo to exchange views on individual cases and on the issue of enforced disappearance in general. It also met with non-governmental organizations and family members of disappeared persons. Members of the Working Group also held informal bilateral meetings with States to exchange information with a view to enhancing cooperation.

The Working Group met with the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, established in 2006 in accordance with article 26 of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to exchange information on their respective activities and discussed about the coordination of common initiatives. Finally, in the context of the session, the Working Group’s official missions to Libya and Spain were confirmed for 2013.

The Working Group also finalized and approved its 2012 annual report, which includes chapters on 97 States and two general comments. It also reports on all new cases and those already under consideration, and the Working Group’s major concerns and observations. The report will be presented at the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council, in March 2013, together with the report on the Working Group’s official missions to Chile and Pakistan undertaken in 2012 and follow up reports on El Salvador and Morocco. All these documents will become public at the beginning of 2013.

The 99th Session of the Working Group is scheduled for 11 to 15 March 2013, in Geneva.

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. In view of the Working Group's humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person are clearly established. The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

(*) The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France) and the other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon), and Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa). Mr. Sarkin was unable to attend the 98th session.

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