UN experts welcome entry into force of treaty on enforced disappearance

Jeremy Sarkin, chairman of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

23 December 2010 – A landmark treaty to deter enforced disappearances entered into force today with United Nations experts tasked with assisting families determine the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared urging States to ensure the eradication of the crime by bringing those responsible to justice.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 2006, took effect 30 days after Iraq became the 20th State to ratify it.

“The entry into force of the Convention is a new and important step in the right direction. But it is not enough,” said members of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in a statement.

“On this important occasion we urge States to make all possible efforts to prevent and eradicate the heinous practice of enforced disappearance and to bring to justice all those believed to be responsible for the crime; refrain from any act of intimidation or reprisals against those persons who contribute to the eradication of the practice; and take effective measures to realize the rights to truth, justice and reparation,” the independent experts said.

Enforced disappearance is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State.

“The Convention breaks new ground in the fight against the scourge of enforced disappearances,” the Working Group said. “It includes for the first time in a treaty the right of any person not to be subjected to enforced disappearance.

“The Convention recognizes the right of all the persons affected by enforced disappearance to know the truth about the circumstances of this crime, the progress and results of the investigation and the fate of the disappeared person,” members of the Group said.

States that ratify the Convention commit themselves to conduct investigations to locate the disappeared person, to prosecute those responsible and to ensure reparations for survivors and their families.

“This is a momentous step, a day that has been looked forward to by many in all parts of the world, including families of those who have disappeared,” the independent experts said.

They, however, condemned the fact that enforced disappearances continue to occur all over the world.

“As recent as our last session, the Working Group examined newly-submitted cases of enforced disappearances and information on previously accepted cases from more than 40 countries from all the regions of the world. We still see secret detention facilities, kidnappings and abductions by States agents against political dissenters and persons accused of terrorism, harassment against relatives of people disappeared, and widespread impunity,” they said.

Members of the Working Group congratulated the 21 States that have ratified the Convention and reiterated their call for all Governments to ratify the treaty as soon as possible. States should also accept the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider individual and inter-State communications of the Convention, when ratifying it.

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances will monitor how States abide by their obligations under the Convention. The independent and impartial panel will have the power to receive complaints from or on behalf of victims when the national authorities fail to fulfil their obligations.


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