UN-approved global pact to outlaw enforced disappearances opens for signature

6 February 2007 –

Almost 60 countries have signed a global treaty that outlaws enforced disappearances and allows victims’ families the right to learn the truth about what happened after the pact – approved by the United Nations General Assembly last year – was officially opened for signature today.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances contains an absolute prohibition on the practice and calls on all States Parties to ensure that it is an offence under their domestic laws. Significantly, it deems any widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearances to be a crime against humanity.

In a speech to today’s ceremony in Paris marking the opening for formal signatures, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said the task now is to make sure the treaty is implemented as soon as possible.

“Far from being a tragic relic of past ‘dirty wars,’ this shameful practice still persists in all continents. This treaty closes a glaring gap in international human rights law by making explicit the prohibition on disappearances,” Ms. Arbour said.

The treaty was adopted by the General Assembly on 20 December. It will enter into force once 20 countries have ratified it, a separate step to signature.

The convention affirms the right of victims – including families of those abducted – to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person and to claim reparation for the harm inflicted to them.

The treaty’s monitoring body will be entitled to receive requests for urgent action on individual cases, to conduct visits with the agreement of States parties concerned, and, in the situation of suspected widespread or systematic cases being practised in the territory under the jurisdiction of a State party, to urgently bring the matter before the General Assembly.

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