7 October 2019
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning met with States, and separately heard a statement by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Opening the meetings, Mohammed Ayat, Acting Committee Chairperson, stressed the importance of regular meetings with United Nations Member States and of supporting States parties to the Convention in the implementation of its provisions. The Chair stressed the critical importance of its urgent actions work, which ensured that the needs of victims were at the heart of the Committee’s activities. At the current session, the Committee had passed the 800 cases mark. Mr. Ayat stressed the precarious financial situation of the Committee and called upon States to assist in finding solutions to this difficult state of affairs. In 2020, the Committee would celebrate its tenth anniversary, said the Chair, and urged States to capitalize on this opportunity to increase the number of ratifications of the Convention.
Morocco reiterated the importance of the Convention’s universal ratification and urged all States which had not yet ratified it to do so. France welcomed the development of the Guiding Principles for the search for disappeared persons, which were indispensable in ascertaining the truth of the fate of victims of enforced disappearances. Albania praised the Committee’s work which it said was essential in preventing enforced disappearances, combatting impunity and providing access to truth and reparation for victims and their families.
The United Arab Emirates said it was not a State party to the Convention but cooperated with the Working Group on enforced disappearance. Mexico urged States parties to the Convention to improve gender balance in the Committee, which currently stood at only 30 per cent. Belgium attached great value to the Committee’s independence and welcomed the decision that the Chairs of human rights treaty bodies had adopted at their last meeting in June 2019, including to harmonize and align working methods and reporting procedures.
In a separate meeting, the Committee met with United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and international organizations, hearing from the United Nations Refugee Agency. UNHCR expressed great concern about the shrinking asylum space in many States and increasing reports of deportations, pushbacks and other restrictive practices, as those put the persons in need of international protection at heightened risk of human rights violations, including refoulement and enforced disappearances.
The Committee also met with non-governmental organizations in private.
All documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 4.30 p.m. on Friday, 11 October to close its seventeenth session.
Meeting with United Nations Member States
Morocco reiterated its commitment to continue to constructively cooperate with the Committee and urged all States which had not yet ratified the Convention to do so. Reiterating the importance of the Convention’s universal ratification, Morocco recalled that it had become a State party in 2013 and that its 2011 Constitution defined secret detention and enforced disappearance as crimes of the most serious category.
France said that its commitment to ending the practice of enforced disappearance was well known, and welcomed the development of the Guiding Principles for the search for disappeared persons, which were indispensable in ascertaining the truth of the fate of victims of enforced disappearances. France welcomed the ratification of the Convention by three States in 2019 and said it would continue to work towards its universal ratification. France encouraged the Committee to intensify dialogue with regional human rights mechanisms in order to harmonize the jurisprudence on human rights protection.
Albania praised the Committee’s work which it said was essential in preventing enforced disappearance, combatting impunity and providing access to truth and reparation for victims and their families. Albania had taken a number of measures to improve its legal framework, including the right to seek and receive information, and the right to an effective remedy, including compensation and restitution.
United Arab Emirates said that although the United Arab Emirates was not a State party to the Convention, it cooperated with the Working Group on enforced disappearance. Given the humanitarian nature of the work, the United Arab Emirates could not stand idle. Sometimes a State could receive a request that a person was last seen in or transiting through a country, and the State checked and responded. However, the requests remained pending against the State, whatever the findings. Could the Committee bring this issue in line so that the individual, who often had nothing to do with a particular State except for being last seen in or transiting through it, did not remain connected to the State.
Mexico urged the States parties to the Convention to improve gender balance in the Committee which currently stood at only 30 per cent. Mexico commended the Committee for its efforts and the flexibility in its working methods, which was evidenced in the use of information and communication technology to facilitate the dialogue with the delegation of Bolivia, which was unable to come to Geneva. What were the prospects for developing a possibility of a “hybrid” dialogue, with part of the delegation in Geneva and part in the State’s capital?
Belgium said it was a staunch supporter of this Committee because enforced disappearance was a continuing offence: as long as the perpetrators continued to conceal the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared person, there was an urgency to finding the individual and ascertaining his or her fate. Belgium attached great value to the Committee’s independence and welcomed the decision that the Chairs of human rights treaty bodies had adopted at their last meeting in June 2019, including to harmonize and align working methods and reporting procedures.
MOHAMMED AYAT, Acting Committee Chairperson, thanked the speakers for the unanimous profession of their support to the Committee and the continued campaign for the universalization of the Convention. Videoconferencing was an exceptional procedure for now, to be used on a case-by-case basis; the best formula for dialogue was direct contact with the delegation from the State under review, the Chair stressed.
Other Committee Experts reiterated concern about slow progress in the ratification of the Convention and said that the goal set by the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – 100 ratifications – was realistic. Special attention should be paid to the lower participation of countries from Asia and to strengthening the financial situation of this Committee and other human rights treaty bodies.
The Experts called upon States to step up the cooperation in eliminating the scourge of enforced disappearance, including in exchanging practices and promoting the ratification of the Convention, particularly those that had signed but not yet ratified the instrument.
Another Expert said that, for those professing their commitment to the protection of human rights, perhaps more important than resources was dedication to the Convention. The Expert urged States to use their existing resources and capabilities to spread the word about this instrument.
Belgium shared the concern about the lack of financial resources to fund the work of human rights treaty bodies and said it would remain vigilant because such a situation was unacceptable.
Meeting with United Nations Bodies, Specialized Agencies and International Organizations
United Nations Refugee Agency welcomed the issuance of the Guiding Principles for the search of the disappeared person and the Committee’s attention to the particular vulnerability of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants. Immigration detention remained one of the opaquest areas of public administration in many countries. Detention was never in the best interest of children, the United Nations Refugee Agency stressed. Shrinking asylum space in many States and increasing reports of deportations, pushbacks and other restrictive practices were of extreme concern as those put the persons in need of international protection at heightened risk of human rights violations, including refoulement and enforced disappearances.
For use of the information media; not an official record