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UN group sounds alarm on rising number of disappearances on International Day

UN group sounds alarm on rising number of disappearances on International Day

Marking the International Day of the Disappeared, a United Nations working group voiced concern over the increasing number of enforced disappearances worldwide and reaffirmed its solidarity with victims and human rights defenders working on their behalf.

The Geneva-based UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances noted in a statement that “in view of the continuous nature of this offense, victims of enforced disappearances whose fate or whereabouts remain unknown should not only be commemorated once a year. Rather, every day is a day of the disappeared.”

Reminding States of their obligations under the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance which was adopted in 1992, the Group called for effective investigations to be conducted for all disappearance cases.

The Group, comprising five independent experts, said it was particularly troubled by amnesty laws or other measures which result in impunity and are contrary to the Declaration.

“States should refrain from making or enacting amnesty laws that would exempt the perpetrators of enforced disappearance from criminal proceedings and sanctions,” it said.

Underreporting of cases in some areas is also problematic, the Group pointed out, as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are not present, organized or have the resources needed to deal with disappearances.

The Group called on the international community to provide ongoing support for the creation of associations of families and NGOs tackling the issue.

Established in 1980, the Working Group is mandated to assist the relatives of disappeared persons by ascertaining their fate and whereabouts, as well as to act as a conduit between the families and Governments concerned.

In the statement, it reiterated its commitment to promptly take up allegations received from family members or NGOs regarding difficulties encountered in implementing the Declaration.

The Group also welcomed the adoption of the International Convention to Protect all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, calling it a “significant step forward.” It urged all States to ratify the new instrument, which will help to prevent future disappearances.