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“Every minute counts” – UN experts raise alarm over short-term enforced disappearances International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances - Tuesday 30 August 2016

“Every minute counts”

26 August 2016

GENEVA (26 August 2016) – Two United Nations expert groups on enforced disappearances called on States worldwide to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances, including short-term enforced disappearances, and to ensure that relatives of persons deprived of their liberty are informed accurately and promptly of their detention.

Speaking ahead of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances also expressed their concern at allegations of intimidation and reprisals against victims of enforced disappearances and those who report their cases.

“There is no time limit, no matter how short, for an enforced disappearance to occur. Every minute counts when a person is put outside the protection of the law. And when a person is disappeared, every anguished minute spent by his or her relatives without news of that person is a minute too long.

Reports and complaints have been received of people being briefly detained by State authorities, who then refuse to acknowledge their detention, nor allow them to make contact with their family members or their counsel, depriving them temporarily of any kind of legal protection.

Under these circumstances, and whatever their duration, these detentions amount to enforced disappearances, for which the States concerned bear international responsibility. 

States have the obligation to disclose the whereabouts of persons who are deprived of their liberty; to hold them in officially recognized places of detention; and to promptly provide accurate information on their detention to their family, their counsel, or other persons with a legitimate interest.

The relatives of persons who have disappeared have the right to know the truth regarding the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. Unfortunately, their claim for truth and justice often gives rise to intimidation and reprisals. We have received worrying reports of acts of retaliation against relatives, witnesses and human rights defenders who report cases of enforced disappearances to the authorities, or who bring them to the attention of the Working Group or the Committee.

As we commemorate the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, we encourage all victims and their relatives to continue engaging with the UN human rights mechanisms* and to make use of the avenues available against any form of intimidation and reprisal. These include the San José Guidelines against intimidation and reprisals adopted by the treaty bodies, and the framework for action on alleged acts of intimidation and reprisal, adopted by the Special Procedures mandate holders to strengthen their ability to provide a systematic and coordinated response to this phenomenon.

We also reiterate our call to all States to ratify or accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, as a fundamental first step towards the prevention, and the ultimate termination, of the inadmissible practice of enforced disappearances.”

(*) How to submit urgent actions:
To the Committee on Enforced Disappearances:
To the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances:

Guidelines against Intimidation or Reprisals (“San José Guidelines”):

Special Procedures framework on addressing reprisals:


For more information, log on to:

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances:

Committee on Enforced Disappearances:

Read the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance:

Check the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Ugo Cedrangolo (+41 22 917 9286 / [email protected]) or write to [email protected]
Maria Giovanna Bianchi (+41 22 917 9189 / [email protected]) or write to [email protected]

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