The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on Friday called on all states to assume the search of the disappeared as a priority, urging them to start by recognising 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, says a message received in Dhaka.
The presentation of the Working Group to the Human Rights Council coincided with the 107th session of the Working Group during which 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, according to a message received from the Office of the High Commissioner, United Nations Human Rights.
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 ones 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, the Philippines, Senegal, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
“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 adding that its 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.
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.