Press Releases

    HR/4788
                                                                                                                            30 August 2004

    On International Day of Disappeared, UN Human Rights Working Group Expresses Serious Concern

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 27 August (UN Information Service) -- On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August), the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is issuing today the following message:

    “The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances regrets that the phenomenon of disappearances continues to occur in scores of States around the globe. While in the past disappearances were mainly associated with the State policies of authoritarian regimes, nowadays they occur in the context of much more complex situations of internal conflict generating violence, humanitarian crisis, and human rights violations.

    “The Working Group expresses particular concern over reports received from reputable non-governmental organizations on the situation in countries such as Nepal, Colombia and the Russian Federation. While in 2003, the Working Group transmitted 18 cases of alleged enforced or involuntary disappearances to the Government of Nepal; in the first half of 2004 this number had risen to 130.  New cases are reported from the Russian Federation, where the Working Group is aware of more than 270 cases in which the fate and whereabouts of the victims are still unknown. The fate of more than 890 disappeared persons is still to be clarified in Colombia.

    “The practice of enforced or involuntary disappearance of persons infringes upon an entire range of human rights embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and set out in both International Covenants on Human Rights, as well as in other major international human rights instruments. The Working Group calls upon all governments to take action to prevent disappearances, and in particular to end the practice of secret detentions. In addition, in fulfilment of their obligations under the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, all governments must end impunity for security forces and armed bands who perpetrate disappearances, and must make every effort to discover the fate of disappeared persons, share that information with family and friends of the disappeared, and provide compensation in the case of death.

    “On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, the Working Group reaffirms that the act of committing enforced or involuntary disappearances is a crime with severe consequences for victims and for relatives and friends of the victim, but also for entire societies and for the credibility of States. The Working Group expresses its solidarity with the families and friends of victims and with all those who suffer from these brutal and inhuman acts.

    “The Working Group was established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist the relatives of disappeared persons in ascertaining their fate and whereabouts and to act as a channel for communication between the families and governments concerned. The Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group is Stephen J. Toope (Canada), and the Vice-Chairperson-Rapporteur Joel Adebayo Adekanye (Nigeria). Other members include Saied Rajaie Khorasani (Islamic Republic of Iran), Darko Göttlicher, (Croatia), and Santiago Corcuera Cabezut (Mexico).”

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