General Assembly Marks Tenth Anniversary of Convention on Enforced Disappearance amid Calls for Universal Ratification, Greater Prevention Efforts

GA/11889
17 February 2017
Seventy-first Session, High-Level Meeting on Enforced Disappearances (AM & PM)

General Assembly Marks Tenth Anniversary of Convention on Enforced Disappearance amid Calls for Universal Ratification, Greater Prevention Efforts

Despite gains to end enforced disappearance and redress its harrowing legacy on families worldwide, the number of cases of one of the most egregious human rights violations was on the rise, parties to the Convention on the matter told the General Assembly today, urging universal ratification of the instrument.

In a high-level debate marking the tenth anniversary of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) called the phenomenon one of the most painful crimes against humanity.  Enforced disappearance was a source of unimaginable pain for many families who often lived their lives without knowing what had happened to their loved ones.

Since its adoption in December 2006, the Convention had filled an important judicial void in the international system by providing a binding legal instrument to fight enforced disappearances, he said.  It recognized the rights not to be subjected to enforced disappearance or held in secret detention, as well as the right to know the truth about the disappearance of a loved one.  The Convention also sought to prevent victimization by extending protections to those in danger of enforced disappearance arising from expulsion, surrender and extradition.  It focused on redressing past wrongs and strengthening accountability by requiring States to investigate and prosecute enforced disappearances. 

Speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet, said the impact of enforced disappearance on families was not just emotional, but could lead to destitution and the loss of children.  The ripple effect could last generations.  With 56 States parties, the Convention continued to lack the mass support required for universal ratification.  Noting that the Convention was the fruit of unspeakable suffering, she underscored the collective responsibility to victims, urging Member States to work together to prevent the practice.

United Nations High-Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, speaking by video message, said that many of those present today had met with family members of “disappeared” people and witnessed their suffering of not knowing when or if their family member would return.  Since the Convention’s ratification, hundreds of families had been able find answers.  Despite significant progress, the practice of enforced disappearance had not decreased, but rather morphed into a new phenomenon.  He called on all States to recognize the principles of human rights and to double the number of States parties to the Convention over the next five years.

Echoing that call, Santiago Corcuera Cabezut, Chair of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, said universality was critical to making the instrument fully operational.  Among the Committee’s unique tasks not found in any other human rights instrument was its urgent-action procedure to find disappeared persons.  He expressed concern that the number of requests had risen exponentially to 85 in 2016, from 5 in 2013, with a total 347 requests under consideration as of January 2017.

In the ensuing discussion, several delegates — many from Latin America, where events during the 1970s and 1980s had catalysed the elaboration of the Convention — emphasized the need for justice.  Argentina’s representative said his country had become synonymous with the scourge of enforced disappearances.  The Convention was a victory for human rights anchored in the pain of what amounted to a crime against humanity.

Representatives also stressed that victims and their families had a right to justice, with Costa Rica’s delegate adding that there could never be justice in an environment that favoured impunity.  No one should be subject to arbitrary detention, and no reason, including internal political instability, could justify enforced disappearance. 

Fostering a culture of peace so that past events could never be repeated was paramount, said Peru’s representative as he described a national plan aimed at finding disappeared persons.  Emphasizing the need for preventative approaches, he said building societies that recognized human dignity must be a universal goal.

Sharing his country’s initiatives, Morocco’s representative said the Equity and Reconciliation Commission had been proactive in its widespread efforts to address cases and requests from the families of victims.  A reparation programme had reached nearly 27,000 victims and rights holders.  The Commission also had led advances in a range of activities, including case analysis, the use of modern techniques to identify victims, and the transformation of detention centres to promote a culture of human rights.

Highlighting the importance of the Convention, Germany’s representative said the treaty had particular meaning for his country, where victims of the Nazi regime had had no protection against enforced disappearance.  He expressed concern, however, that the number of cases would likely keep rising, and the challenges of addressing them would persist due to limited resources.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Chile, Japan, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Czech Republic, Mexico, Gabon, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, El Salvador, Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as the European Union.

Delivering statements on behalf of civil society were representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Amnesty International, American Bar Association and the International Union of Jurists.

In the afternoon, the Assembly held a panel discussion moderated by Committee member Emmanuel Decaux examining the obstacles encountered by States in the ratification of the Convention and the best ways to address them.

Opening Remarks

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said today marked a milestone in the international community’s fight to rid the world of one of the most painful crimes against humanity.  The legacy of enforced disappearances was harrowing, the sudden loss of loved ones the cause of unbearable sorrow for so many.  Describing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as a landmark achievement resulting from a decades-long struggle by family members for truth and justice, he said that since its adoption in December 2006, the instrument had filled an important judicial void in the international system by providing a binding legal instrument to fight the scourge of enforced disappearances.

He went on to note that the Convention recognized the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, the right not to be held in secret detention, and the right to know the truth.  It also sought to prevent victimization in the future by extending protections to those in danger of enforced disappearance arising from expulsion, surrender and extradition.  The treaty also sought to redress past wrongs and strengthen accountability by requiring States to investigate and prosecute enforced disappearances.   While events that had taken place in Latin American during the 1970s and 1980s had catalysed elaboration of the Convention, enforced disappearances continued in many parts of the world, he noted.  With international attention shifting to implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it would be important to recognize the Convention’s role in eradicating poverty and realizing development goals.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Chef de Cabinet, delivered a testament on behalf of the Secretary-General, emphasizing that although the Convention had its roots in the horrific practices of Latin American dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, it was still very relevant today.  Enforced disappearance was an egregious violation of human rights as well as international humanitarian law.  Recalling that the Conference of States Parties had re-evaluated the text of the Convention last December, she said it addressed the grievances of hundreds of family members of the disappeared.

The impact on family members was not just emotional, but could lead to destitution and the loss of children, she continued.  “We cannot count how many violations have been prevented and how many people have been saved from being returned to the clutches of the perpetrators.”  With its current membership of 56 States parties, the Convention continued to be deprived of the mass support it required for universal ratification.  Noting that the Convention was the fruit of unspeakable suffering, she stressed the international community’s collective responsibility to the victims of enforced disappearance, urging Member States to work together to prevent it.

ZEID RA'AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking by video message, said the Convention’s power and relevance, as well as its procedures for taking urgent action, made it a strong and versatile tool.  Noting that many of those present had met with family members of “disappeared” people and witness their terrible suffering, not knowing when or if their family member would return, he said 56 States parties had ratified the Convention over the past decade.

The Committee’s efforts had helped hundreds of family members find answers, he said, adding that some victims had been found while others had died.  Despite the significant preventative effect of the Committee’s efforts, the practice of enforced disappearance was not decreasing, but rather morphing into a new phenomenon, he pointed out, calling upon all States to recognize the principles of human rights and urging the doubling of the number of States parties over the next five years.

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Chair of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, said the goal should be to double ratifications of the Convention over the next five years because the values it protected were universal.  Universality should be achieved in the near future, he emphasized, adding that, in order to make it fully operational, more States parties should recognize its competence on communications submitted by individuals or States, he said, noting that only 22 of the instrument’s 56 States parties had made such declarations.  Recognizing that the Committee’s efforts complemented the work of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, he also highlighted the indispensable support of the Secretary to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Among the Committee’s unique tasks not found in any other human rights instrument concerned urgent action to find disappeared persons, he continued.  The number of requests had risen exponentially to 85 in 2016, from 5 in 2013, and 347 requests had been under consideration as of January 2017, he said, pointing out that the urgent-action procedure helped families, relatives or representatives of disappeared persons to access information about their searches.  Providing an update of the Committee’s efforts, he said 12 families had recently received assistance.

Statements

MATTHIAS FEKL (France), recognizing advances in mobilizing protection efforts, said the Convention had been a major success and a model of cooperation among States, civil society and experts.  Paying tribute to the families of disappeared persons, he said they were working tirelessly to seek out truth and justice, pointing out, however, that enforced disappearance remained too widespread on all continents.  There had been 55,000 cases in 105 countries since the Committee’s founding, he said, adding that widespread disappearances in Syria had been reported since 2011.  Cases that the United Nations had detected and dealt with represented but a small fraction of all cases, he said, adding that France and Argentina would propose an international campaign to increase the number of signatories to the Convention, and engage States to ratify the instrument.

PEDRO VILLAGRA DELGADO (Argentina) said his country had become synonymous with the scourge of enforced disappearances.  Describing the Convention as a victory for human rights anchored in the pain of what amounted to a crime against humanity, he said Argentina had undertaken many actions to address enforced disappearance.  The proposed new campaign would urge States to accede to the Convention, bringing the world closer to the goal of ensuring its full implementation.  Deeply aware of the challenges ahead, he emphasized that no technological element could prevent racism and prejudice.  For example, there was need for actions to fight impunity, he said, expressing his country’s firm commitment to that goal.

MAHJOUB EL HAIBA (Morocco) said forced disappearances constituted a crime against international law and humanity.  Morocco had taken steps to promote the Convention, adopted the relevant legislation and established the Equity and Reconciliation Commission.  That approach had led to advances in a range of activities, including the collection and analysis of cases, open access to official archives, the use of modern techniques to identify victims, and the transformation of former detention centres to promote a culture of human rights on the basis of consultations with victims, their families and non-governmental organizations.  The Commission had been proactive in its widespread efforts to address cases and requests from the families of victims, he said, outlining efforts including a reparation programme that reached nearly 27,000 victims and rights holders.  Morocco had also strengthened cooperation with the Committee and the Working Group, ratified the Convention, established a draft national plan and amended its Constitution to criminalize grave human rights violations, including forced disappearances.  Morocco supported goal of a universal Convention, he said, while recognizing the work that remained to be done.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, said the Convention, with 96 signatories and 55 States parties, had attracted significant support from all regions.  She commended the Committee on Enforced Disappearances for its consideration of State reports, individual and inter-State complaints, and requests for urgent action.  Also welcoming its interaction with United Nations agencies and bodies, including the Working Group, she urged all States to provide support for country visits.  The European Union aimed to advance the Convention’s goals through human rights dialogues with countries, as well as through assistance to the Institute for Legal Medicine in Colombia in identifying the bodies of people killed, and the provision of support services to victims in Libya.

ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica) said Latin America had seen first-hand the devastating effects of State policies.  For decades, the pain of enforced disappearances had hit close to home.  Enforced disappearances were a crime against humanity and all States must combat impunity.  Victims had a right to justice, but justice could not be upheld without truth.  There could never be justice in an environment that favoured impunity.   No one should be subject to arbitrary detention and no reason, including internal political instability, could justify enforced disappearance.  He urged other States to ratify the Convention to ensure that enforced disappearances would become a crime of the past.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said his country promoted and protected human rights, fundamental freedoms and respect for the rule of law.  Enforced disappearances eroded the deepest values of Peruvian society.  They were an affront to human dignity and the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  For its part, Peru had adopted a national plan to find disappeared persons and had fostered a culture of peace so that the events of past decades could never be repeated.  Fully respecting human rights was vital to sustainable development.  Building societies that recognized human dignity must be a universal goal, he said, urging all to ensure the Convention’s implementation and increase the number of ratifications.

CARLOS OLGUÍN CIGARROA (Chile) reiterated his country’s commitment to the spirit of the Convention, bearing in mind that forced disappearance continued to be perpetrated by States and non-State actors.  The Convention’s validity was essential for ensuring the accountability of perpetrators.  Chile had suffered from enforced disappearances committed by the State and now supported urgent action to combat that scourge.  Enforced disappearance, in some circumstances, could be considered a crime against humanity, he said, calling on States to ratify the Convention.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) stressed the importance of promoting universal ratification of the Convention and looked forward to practical and productive discussions in that regard.  He drew attention to the work of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which found that crimes against humanity had been committed against persons from other countries who had been systematically abducted by that country’s authorities.  “This issue can afford no further delay,” he said, calling upon Member States to support a resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that Japan and the European Union would submit at the Human Rights Council’s next session.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) said that after suffering armed conflict for more than five decades, her country had implemented measures to address enforced disappearances, including with the establishment of a national commission to search for disappeared persons.   Regrettably, the national registry of the disappeared had a high number of cases.  Nevertheless, Colombia had seen a 93.5 per cent drop in cases in just one decade.  Greater efforts were needed to end enforced disappearances.  It was critical to heal wounds, which could only happen when the disappeared were found.  The peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had helped to address the victims of the domestic armed conflict.  Colombia would continue to work towards stable and lasting peace, she added, expressing hope that the international community would help that cause.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said the Convention’s adoption marked an important step in addressing forced disappearances, which was a legal and moral priority for his country.  He reiterated support for the Committee’s permanence in working on enforced disappearance cases and called for providing all judicial aid needed in order to go forward with cases.  International cooperation on the matter had been successfully used by Uruguay in searching for and identifying victims.  It was critical to ensure full reparation and restitution for families of the disappeared.

JULIA MACIEL (Paraguay) said her country had experienced forced disappearances and recognized the importance of finding historic truth as a means of reconciliation.  Paraguay had established a Truth and Justice Commission, addressing violations from 1954 to 1989, during which time abductions, torture and enforced disappearances had occurred.  In 2006, for the first time, efforts had been made to search for and exhume graves, with 34 victims having been found.  Noting that identifying them was what their families deserved, she said four victims had been identified and their remains had been sent to their families.  Paraguay was also cooperating with neighbouring countries, she said, thanking the Argentinian team for support provided in identifying the disappeared.  Finding the truth ensured that justice would be done, she said.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) said the Convention was a historic document, consolidating the international architecture to protect human rights.  Tunisia had joined the Convention as part of its institutional reforms to enshrine the rule of law and establish legislation to recognize human rights.  Its Constitution guaranteed the right to freedom and dignity, while provisions to fight enforced disappearances included involving judicial authorities and the Truth and Dignity Commission.  During Tunisia’s transition period, all efforts were being made to protect human rights.  Tunisia had submitted a report in 2016 on the issue and a working group was investigating ways to fight enforced disappearances within the law.

AHAMED LEBBE SABARULLAH KHAN (Sri Lanka) noted his country’s ratification of the Convention in 2016, adding that it was the only Member State from South Asia to do so.  Soon after ratification, the Government had created an independent Office of Missing Persons which, unlike previous mechanisms, dealt with all cases regardless of the time period in which someone went missing.  He noted the guidance that Sri Lanka had received from United Nations mechanisms — notably the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances — in laying the ground work for addressing enforced disappearances, adding that the Convention could be immensely helpful for reconciliation in countries such as Sri Lanka that were emerging from conflict.

JÜRGEN SCHULZ (Germany) said the Convention had particular meaning for his country, where victims of the Nazi regime had no protection against enforced disappearances following the “Night and Fog Decree” of 1941 that had ordered the transfer to Germany of civilians in occupied regions accused of resistance.  Calling the Convention an important part of the international human rights framework, he said the option to request urgent action under Article 30 was a valuable tool for relatives to obtain information on the whereabouts of loved ones.  Unfortunately, as the number of cases was likely to keep rising, dealing with urgent actions would be a major challenge due to the Committee’s limited resources, he said, expressing hope that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would continue to provide it with the necessary support.

MARIE CHATARDOVÁ (Czech Republic) said the Convention was daily bringing hope to families of victims and to the notion that enforced disappearance could, one day, be eradicated.  Even though the Czech Republic had not experienced massive enforced disappearances, the Convention remained important for all countries to protect human rights and prevent torture and other heinous crimes.

JUAN JOSÉ GÓMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico), expressing full support for the Convention, said major challenges remained and disappearances linked to transnational organized crime in his country had caused great anguish.  Mexico’s efforts included keeping families informed and engaging in regional commitments on follow-up mechanisms for human rights-related actions.  Investigations were under way to address the disappearance of 43 students and efforts would continue until justice was served.  Preventing other such tragedies was essential, he said, noting current initiatives in that regard.  Such efforts had been established in consultation with civil society and other stakeholders and had focused on, among other things, the criminalization of forced disappearances in line with international standards, ways to find victims and methods for investigating such crimes.  Civil society must participate in all stages of addressing the crime of enforced disappearances, access to justice must be ensured and, in addressing the scourge, authorities must combat organized crime.  International cooperation was also essential, he said, emphasizing that the Convention must become universal.

BAUDELAIRE NDONG ELLA (Gabon) said crises and armed conflict were fertile ground for the practice of enforced disappearances and the Convention provided a foundation to fight against those crimes.  Welcoming the Committee’s work, he encouraged the United Nations to maintain its technical assistance to States, particularly in gathering information on victims, as such efforts helped to prevent the scourge.  Encouraging States to enact national legislation to criminalize enforced disappearances, he said human rights were part of a process that required persistence, vigilance and wisdom.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said the right to life, freedom and security had always been the cornerstones of the Government’s actions and those of Cuban society.  Excluding the territory illegally occupied by a United States naval base at Guantánamo, there were no cases in Cuba of disappearance, torture, secret detentions or other serious violations of human rights.  Cuban law not only set out universally recognized human rights safeguards, but also guaranteed civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.  Cuba would remain committed to full observance of the Convention, she added.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said prohibiting, preventing and combating enforced disappearances were essential for eradicating that scourge.  However, the situation was worsening in some parts of the world.  Efforts should be united, he said, calling on all States to sign and ratify the Convention and to recognize the Committee’s competence.  It was difficult to gauge the number of disappeared persons and the dangers facing those who reported on those crimes.  For its part, Kazakhstan had made efforts to improve its legislation containing elements to further implement the Convention.  Kazakhstan stood ready to support international efforts to bring justice to the disappeared and their families.

JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland), expressing support for addressing enforced disappearances, called on all States to take action.  New national legal provisions would provide for the Convention’s effective implementation.  Switzerland had accepted the Committee’s competence and was pleased to hear from other States about their efforts to implement the Convention.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME (El Salvador) said his country had taken steps to address enforced disappearances, including establishing a commission to locate victims.  An Argentine team had provided essential assistance, which had helped El Salvador in healing from the past.  A programme of reparations for victims of armed conflict was among other human-rights-based efforts.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said Latin America had seen many enforced disappearances because of national security doctrines adopted in the 1970s and 1980s.  Forced disappearances continued to occur during times of conflict.  Testimony that bore witness to those crimes was contained in a study titled “Never Again”, reflecting Argentina’s experiences and the development of State terrorism policies under dictatorships led by the United States.  Those dictatorships had operated in a cloud of impunity, he said.  Accountability and combating impunity were crucial in addressing the trauma of the victims of those heinous crimes.  In 1989, in Venezuela, more than 3,000 were disappeared in a period of days.  Today, Venezuela was starting a compensation process to ensure that those abuses never again occurred.

RI SONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his country opposed enforced disappearances and the politicization of the issue with a view to punishing individual States.  He rejected accusations made against his country, calling on Member States to take a fair attitude towards the forces poised against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, particularly efforts based on false information.  Japan had committed heinous crimes against his country, including forcing 200,000 women and girls into sexual slavery, and must officially and immediately apologize for its human rights violations against the Korean people.

PHILIP SPOERRI, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the Convention’s first achievement had been recognizing the crime of enforced disappearance as a human rights violation and the second addressing accountability and prevention issues.  Other critical steps included States that were recognizing past crimes and others that were establishing initiatives to do so.  ICRC had taken steps to help States implement the Convention and encourage others to ratify that instrument.  More must be done to achieve the Convention’s universalization and efforts could include commemorating past incidents.  It was critical to remember that victims must continue to be at the centre of all efforts.

RENZO POMI, Amnesty International, said the Convention was a viable tool for victims to seek justice and locate loved ones.  The Committee on Enforced Disappearances had reminded States of their obligations.  Amnesty International called on States which had not done so to ratify the Convention and recognize the competence of the Committee.  It also called for full funding and cooperation with the Committee as it continued its crucial work.

RENEE DOPPLICK, American Bar Association, underscored the need to ensure justice for the victims, their families and society.  Strengthening accountability would be vital in preventing the crime and its recurrence, she said, expressing concern that despite many gains in combating enforced disappearances, new patterns had emerged.  She assured that the international legal community would continue to combat enforced disappearance and assist in implementing international law.  

JUTTA BERTRAM-NOTHNAGEL, International Union of Jurists, paid tribute to those who had been pregnant when they disappeared.  Enforced disappearance of a person was tantamount to the enforced disappearance of the “humanity we all owe to each other”.  Emphasizing the need to recognize the independence of judges and lawyers, she called on all legal associations to assist Governments in implementing the Convention.

Panel Discussion

The Conference then held a panel discussion to examine the best way to address possible obstacles encountered by States in ratifying the Convention.  Moderated by Emmanuel Decaux of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, it featured the following panellists:  Committee Chair Corcuera; Luís Raúl González Pérez, President, National Commission of Human Rights, Mexico, representing the Global Alliance of National Human Rights institutions; Bernard Duhaime, Vice-Chair, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Stéphanie David, Head, New York Bureau, International Federation for Human Rights; Horacio Ravenna, Member, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights; and Louis Joinet, former human rights rapporteur.

Mr. DECAUX said States alone could not deal with the issues at hand, which were regional and global in nature.  The means must be in place to advance towards the doubling of Convention ratifications.

Mr. CORCUERA outlined possible obstacles to universality, saying they could include such obligations as regular reporting and aligning national legislation with the Convention.  Emphasizing the importance of the instrument’s values and the need for effective laws, he said that even though some States had never experienced enforced disappearances, it was critical to enact the relevant legislation, as with laws criminalizing genocide.  The broader goal was for States parties to recognize the Committee’s competence to decide on potential violations of the Convention.  While no State was lodging complaints about another State, Governments could see some claims in a negative perspective aspect, he said.  It was important to recognize that what was being sought was justice, he said.

Mr. GONZÁLEZ described enforced disappearance as a disgraceful and complex form of human rights violations that must be understood and addressed in a comprehensive manner.  The scourge also represented an inescapable challenge for States because it tested justice and research systems before their own citizens and the world.  He urged national human rights institutions to work closely with States, civil society and rights holders themselves to encourage and assist States in ratifying and incorporating the Convention into domestic laws while ensuring perpetrators were brought to justice.  One of the best ways to prevent enforced disappearances was to hold perpetrators accountable because failure to investigate and punish them sent a dangerous message that perpetrators faced no consequences for their actions.  States parties must adopt measures targeting the problem through efficient and exhaustive missing-person data registries, and by using trained experts specialized in searching for disappeared persons as well as in harmonizing legislation in accordance with the Convention’s provisions.  Cooperation was essential in dealing with what was truly a regional and global concern, he said, emphasizing that the world community simply could not be indifferent to hate speech that promoted racism or xenophobia.  All persons had a right to dignity, regardless of religion or place of origin, he added.

Mr. DUHAIME said the Convention provided a solid, legally binding framework in the areas of prevention, punishment, reparation and non-recurrence of enforced disappearances.  Even though the Committee and the Working Group had strengthened their joint efforts to prevent and eradicate the practice, “we are still far from winning the battle”, he noted.  The road towards eradication was long and winding, but States could take steps that could immediately reaffirm their commitment to that goal, including providing support for the Convention and the Committee’s work, he said.  Providing a snapshot of the alarming reality on the ground, he said the Working Group had seen an increase in the number of new cases, and it was high time to put the intolerable crime of enforced disappearance at the top of the United Nations agenda.

Ms. DAVID said the International Federation for Human Rights had taken a range of actions in a number of countries, including providing support for legal efforts to bring perpetrators to justice, and for victims and their families.  Noting that the gravity of crimes sometimes led to requests for regional mechanisms or the International Criminal Court to open a case, she said advocacy and contributing to ratification campaigns were other actions that could promote the Convention’s universality.  The Federation also helped partners, she said, urging the Committee to consult with civil society in its efforts to address relevant issues.  Despite the Convention’s anniversary, enforced disappearance continued today, with the appearance of new threats and issues, and particularly with non-State actors involved in armed conflict, terrorism and cross-border crimes.

Mr. RAVENNA recalled that the Convention’s entry into force was a landmark in the struggle against impunity that had led States parties to criminalize heinous crimes.  Current concerns included the secret transfer of detainees and reports of migrants disappearing while seeking a better life.  Wondering why 97 States had yet to sign the Convention, he said dialogue must aim at getting more States to ratify the instrument.  Moving forward, activities must focus on signing and ratifying the treaty, with stronger action encouraging States to do so.  Secret detention was a serious crime that must be eradicated, he stressed, noting that the Committee had developed an interpretative guide to such actions, including the strengthening of dialogue and the institutional capacity of States.

Mr. JOINET, speaking by video teleconference, provided a brief history of the Convention’s development, saying it had entailed defining the crime and finding ways to fight it.  Citing examples from Chile and Timor-Leste, he said the range of efforts that had advanced progress included the establishment of national legislation to end impunity.

During the ensuing interactive exchange, speakers asked for further suggestions on ways to end impunity and for details as to how Member States could strengthen the protection of migrants against enforced disappearance.

Mr. CORCUERA, Committee Chair, said the lack of interaction among States raised concerns about situations in some Asian countries.

Mr. GONZÁLEZ addressed concerns involving migrants, recalling that enforced disappearance knew no borders and that all Member States must respond.  Citing a national example, he said Mexico had met with counterparts and non-governmental organizations in Central America to address migration issues, and had interviewed migrants to better respond to relevant challenges.

Mr. DUHAIME said the Working Group had examined the issue of migration and enforced disappearances and was preparing a thematic report to be submitted in September.  It covered such issues as refoulement, systemic impunity, the role of non-State actors and cases of individuals and families migrating in search of justice.  Much remained to be done at all levels, including sharing information and establishing well-defined roles for consular offices, he stressed.

Ms. DAVID said civil society could do more to campaign for more ratifications.  Recalling the enormous mobilization of civil society that had led to ratification of the founding Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, she suggested a similar drive for the Convention on Enforced Disappearance, encouraging more organizations around the world to join the International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances, while calling for greater efforts by regional institutions.

Mr. RAVENNA suggested that it might be easier to focus on the 40 States parties that had signed but not yet ratified the Convention.  As such, joint efforts could be divided among civil society, States parties and the Committee.  Countries receiving migrants must comply with international law, he said, recognizing that mass migration had created a crisis that demanded a response.

Also participating were representatives of Argentina, Canada, Japan and Mexico, as well as a civil society representative.

For information media. Not an official record.