ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe


5 November 2018

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning opened its fifteenth session at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, during which it will examine the initial reports of Japan, Mexico, and Portugal on their implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  The Committee heard a statement by Ibrahim Salama, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, observed a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of enforced disappearances, and adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Addressing the Committee, Mr. Salama reminded that the new High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, in her first address to the Human Rights Council, had referred to the topic of enforced disappearance, based on her own professional experience and in reference to human rights concerns in countries in all parts of the world, and had also recognized the centrality of the work of treaty bodies at a time of many setbacks for human rights.  Since the Committee’s previous session, he continued, the Gambia had ratified the Convention, becoming the 59th party to the treaty, while Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Djibouti, and Uzbekistan had indicated their support to Universal Periodic Review recommendations calling them to ratify the Convention.

As for the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which had held its 116th session in September in Geneva, Mr. Salama noted that a Committee member was present during its expert consultation on standards and public policies for an effective investigation of enforced disappearances, and, in this vein, stressed the importance of the continued cooperation and coordination between the two bodies.  In October 2018, the Working Group had issued a press release in which it had expressed deep concern about new and very worrisome practice of disappearance in the form of extraterritorial abductions of individuals in foreign countries through undercover operations, in which it had referred to the “recent shocking case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi”.  In her own press release of 16 October, the High Commissioner had urged concerned Governments to reveal everything they knew about the disappearance and possible extrajudicial killing of the prominent journalist, and, recalling the serious character of the crime of enforced disappearance, had called for a prompt, thorough, effective, impartial and transparent investigation into the facts of the case. 

Mr. Salama then said that the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on missing persons submitted to the 73rd session of the General Assembly addressed the international legal and institutional framework applicable to the issue of missing persons, and – drawing on the principles and provisions of the Convention – also addressed the various measures being taken to prevent people from going missing, and measures to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons.  The 2018-2021 management plan of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, focused on prevention, civic space, and expanding the global constituency for human rights.   It also explored emerging human rights concerns, such a digital space, corruption, inequality, and people’s displacement and movement, among others.  The Office was committed to enhancing the participation in public life by rights holders and to protecting civic space and those standing for human rights.  “Civil society actors play an important role in your work, as they do in ours and we hope to work together to foster an enabling environment for their work”, he said. 

On reprisals, the Secretary-General’s report to the Human Rights Council on the cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights had highlighted recent developments with the United Nations system and beyond to address intimidation and reprisals against those seeking to cooperate or having cooperated with the United Nations.  Most human rights treaty bodies, Mr. Salama continued, had adopted the San José Guidelines against Intimidation or Reprisals, which reflected their general concern about reprisals.  A common approach across United Nations treaty bodies and experts to that issue should prove more effective for countering the damaging effect of reprisals on the promotion and protection of human rights, including those enshrined in the Convention.

The chairs of treaty bodies, at their 30th annual meeting in New York from 28 May to 1 June 2018, had agreed to propose the appointment of focal points in each treaty body to develop a common “treaty-body based” position ahead of the 2020 review, and had endorsed possible elements for a common aligned procedure for follow-up to concluding observations, decisions and views.  The meeting had also focused on the alignment of working methods and other areas of implementation of Resolution 68/268.  The Secretary-General’s report on the status of the treaty body system highlighted that the adjustments to the meeting time allocated to committees had not been matched by the allocation of sufficient staff resources, Mr. Salama noted, urging the Committee to use its meetings with States to seek increased support.

Suela Janina, Committee Chairperson, in her remarks, expressed hope that the Committee would have more opportunity to discuss the challenges regarding the management of the Committee’s work.

The Committee then adopted the agenda and programme of work for the session, and observed a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of enforced disappearances.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found at the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 5 November, to consider the initial report of Japan (CED/C/JPN/1).

For use of the information media; not an official record