Secretary-General's Message for 2016
The classic image of a victim of enforced disappearance is that of a person being deprived of liberty, taken to a secret place of detention, and being kept there without any further contact with the outside world. Yet victims of enforced disappearances are also the parents, children, partners or friends of those who have disappeared; anguished women and men desperately seeking any information, even if only a clue, that will lead them to their loved ones.
According to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, a victim is also “any individual who has suffered harm as the direct result of an enforced disappearance”. With the support of their communities, human rights defenders, and non-governmental organizations, these victims seek and demand adequate responses from the authorities. They have a right to know the truth regarding the circumstances of these disappearances, the progress and results of any investigations, and ultimately, the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.
All States have an obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish enforced disappearances, as well as to provide redress to its victims. However, victims often face a lack of responsiveness or outright hostility from the authorities to which they reach out. The Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the two main United Nations expert mechanisms in this realm, have received accounts of reprisals such as arbitrary arrests, threats, and intimidation against relatives, or against the human rights defenders, lawyers, and non-governmental organizations that support them.
On this International Day, I call on States to acknowledge that family members and friends of the disappeared are also victims, and to guarantee their right to full protection from any form of reprisals. I also urge all Member States to sign, ratify or accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which includes specific provisions against the ill-treatment or intimidation of witnesses, relatives, and persons participating in the investigation of enforced disappearances.
Let us all show solidarity with the victims and their relatives as they strive to realize their right for truth and justice.