15 Sep 2014
Family members desperate to know the truth hold photographs of their ‘disappeared’ loved ones. ©ICRC/HEGER, Boris
A group of United Nations human rights experts have expressed concern over the rising wave of enforced disappearances worldwide, under the guise of preserving national security, combating terrorism or organized crime.
In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances reminded states that no circumstances whatsoever, whether a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances.
The working group says the scale and extent of enforced disappearances in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Ukraine is worrying.
The group says it continues to receive reports of threats, intimidation and reprisals against victims of enforced disappearance, including family members, witnesses and human rights defenders working on such cases.
Ariel Dulitzky who chairs the working group says they have been notified of at least 418 missing persons since November 2012.
He is calling on governments to strengthen measures to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearance and to secure the rights to truth, justice and reparations for victims.
“Enforced disappearance as a crime is not only a violation of international human rights law, but also undermines the rule of law in any country where enforced disappearances takes place. Enforced disappearance is not only taking place today, but many enforced disappearances that happened in the past, many of them several decades ago still remain unsolved. We consider that enforced disappearance is a continuous crime until the fate or whereabouts of the persons that disappeared is established. In our database the working group has 43,000 open cases from 88 countries.”
The mandate of the Working Group is to assist families of disappeared persons to ascertain the fate and whereabouts of their relatives, and to monitor States’ compliance with their obligations to protect their citizens from enforced disappearance.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.