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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Video message by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein to General Assembly high-level plenary meeting to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

10th anniversary of the Convention on Enforced Disappearance

17 February 2017

17 February 2017

Distinguished participants,

Ten years ago, a historic document was adopted in this room. It crystallized the principle that no one should suffer enforced disappearance, and no one should be kept in secret detention. It forbade the expulsion, refoulment, surrender or extradition of persons who could be in danger of enforced disappearance.

The powerful relevance of the the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the procedures for urgent action and inquiries that it laid out, made it a strong and versatile tool to prohibit, prevent and combat this terrible crime.
Many of us in this room have met family members of people who have disappeared. We know the terrible suffering of those who are left in ignorance of when, or if, their relatives will be able to return; where they are held – if indeed they are held somewhere – and why.
In the past decade, 55 States have ratified or acceded to the Convention, and many of them have adopted laws that criminalise enforced disappearance. Twenty have recognised the authority of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive individual complaints and requests for urgent action, and the number of those requests has increased exponentially. The work of the Committee has helped hundreds of family members and representatives of the disappeared gain access to information.
Some disappeared persons have been located: currenlty two remain in detention and eight have been released. Others have been found to have died. Unquestionably, many more are confined to secret places of pain and despair.

I firmly believe that the work of the Committee has also had significant preventive effect. But the practise of enforced disappearance is not decreasing – it is morphing. In the context of migration, internal conflict, transnational organized crime, humanitarian crises and the struggle against violent extremism, we are seeing new and alarming patterns of enforced disappearance.

In this context, as we move into the Convention's second decade, I call on all States to recognise the bedrock principles of human dignity which underlie this essential legal instrument.

Let’s set today the bold goal of doubling ratifications of the Convention in the next five years. I believe that all together we have the power to achieve this.

Thank you.