Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Human Rights; UN human rights experts study more than 200 cases of forced disappearances

Jeremy Sarkin, chairman of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

UN - The United Nations human rights experts tasked with assisting families determine the fate or whereabouts of disappeared relatives examined over 200 cases during its recent session held in Mexico City, and is now conducting a mission to learn about Mexico’s efforts in dealing with the issue.

During its 15-18 March session, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances studied cases concerning Algeria, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Republic of Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, Georgia, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Yemen.

The five independent human rights experts also reviewed responses from various governments to its letters and appeals, and held meetings with representatives of Japan and Guatemala, as well as consultations with family members of disappeared persons and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In addition, it examined allegations submitted by NGOs regarding obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and decided to transmit general allegations to various concerned governments.

Since its creation in 1980, the working group has dealt with more than 50,000 cases in 80 countries. By opening channels of communication between the families and governments concerned, it seeks to ensure that individual cases are investigated and to clarify the whereabouts of persons who have disappeared.

The group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. Its five expert members serve in their individual capacities, and not as representatives of their governments.

Immediately following its session, the group started an official visit to Mexico to learn about the country’s efforts in dealing with the issue of enforced disappearances. During the 18-31 March mission, the experts will collect information which may lead to the clarification of outstanding cases of enforced disappearances that occurred in the country.

The UN expert body will examine the phenomenon of enforced disappearance, the status of the investigations of old and recent cases and the steps taken to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances.

It will also look at what is being done to combat impunity, as well as other issues concerning truth, justice and reparations for victims of enforced disappearances.

The fact-finding mission will be carried out by three of the group’s experts – Jasminka Dzumhur, Osman El-Hajj√© and Ariel Dulitzky – and a report on the visit will be presented to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in 2012.

The other experts are Jeremy Sarkin, who serves as Chair-Rapporteur, and Olivier de Frouville.