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Many Governments have more information on the number of mobile phones than on the number of disappeared persons

GENEVA (18 September 2015) – The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances* today called on all States to assume the search of the disappeared as a priority, urging them to start by recognizing the issue and determining its exact extent through the gathering of clear and reliable records.

In many countries, Governments have “more information on the number of mobile phones there than on the number of disappeared persons,” explained the current Chair of the expert group Ariel Dulitzky, during the presentation of its annual report to the Human Rights Council this week.

“One person is probably being disappeared in one of your countries as we are talking,” he told the Council’s 47 member States.

“The time for words and promises is over. It is now the time for action on behalf of relatives to support their fight for truth, justice, reparation and memory,” observed Dulitzky, who also added that is very worrisome that, in 2015, the Working Group continues daily to receive new cases of enforced disappearances.

The human rights expert also presented the Working Group’s reports on the regional visit to the Western Balkans, the follow-up report to the recommendations made upon past visits in Mexico and Timor Leste and the study on enforced disappearances and economic, social and cultural rights.

“We are grateful that virtually all delegations have welcomed this important study as well as our future topic of thematic research on enforced disappearances and migration. We would welcome any input from all stakeholders thereon,” he said.

Talking about the follow-up report on Mexico, the Chair welcomed the Government’s positive reaction to the recent report of the experts from the Interdisciplinary Group of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Case of the Students of Ayotzinapa. “We have met with two of the experts from the Interdisciplinary Group in the context of our session and will follow very closely the implementation of their recommendations as well as of those contained in our follow-up report”.  

The presentation of the Working Group to the Human Rights Council coincided with the 107th session of the Working Group, during which Ms. Houria Es-Slami - the first woman in the history of the WGEID - was appointed Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group. Bernard Duhaime was appointed Vice-Chair of the expert body. They will both assume the new functions as of next week.

During the session, the experts examined under the urgent action procedure 64 reported cases of enforced disappearances that have occurred in the last few months – concerning China, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, Syrian Arab Republic and the United Arab Emirates- as well as more than 381 cases, including newly-reported cases and updated information on previously accepted ones.

Other countries whose cases were examined during the session are: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chile, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, France, Gambia, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

The group of independent experts also focused on specific country situations, in particular regarding the obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration. Members discussed their forthcoming and potential country visits. “We are very happy to announce the confirmation of our visit to Sri Lanka from 9 to 18 November”, the experts noted.

The Working Group also decided to prepare next year follow-up reports on the recommendations made upon its past visits to the Republic of Congo and Pakistan.

The expert panel held formal meetings with representatives of the Governments of Japan and Ukraine. Informal bilateral meetings with other States were also held to exchange views on individual cases and on the issue of enforced disappearances in general. The individual experts also met with family members of disappeared persons and non-governmental organizations. The Working Group also continued its practice to meet with regional groups by holding a meeting with representatives of the Latin American and Caribbean Group.

The Working Group also met with the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to exchange information on respective activities and to further the cooperation and coordination between the two specialized bodies dealing with enforced disappearances. The meeting concluded with a discussion with Estela de Carlotto, one of the founders and President of the NGOs Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo.

The Working Group will hold its 108th session in February 2016 in Morocco.

(*) The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina) and the Vice-Chair is Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina); other members are Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea), Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada), and Ms. Houria Es-Slami (Morocco).

The Working Group was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group’s humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person are clearly established. The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx

Check the reports presented to Human Rights Council here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session30/Pages/ListReports.aspx 

How to submit cases to the Working Group?: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/issues/Disappearances/Communication_form_E.doc

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Ugo Cedrangolo (+41 22 9179286, ucedrangolo@ohchr.org or wgeid@ohchr.org)

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