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The World Must Not Be ‘Neutral’ On Enforced Disappearances

UN Photo/Mark Garten Visitors throw white flowers into Rio de la Plata in Buenos Aires out of respect and remembrance for the tens of thousands of people who disappeared during Argentina's so-called "Dirty War"

The international community “should not be neutral” on enforced disappearance, independent UN human rights experts said on Monday, calling for countries to strengthen cooperation in investigating and prosecuting perpetrators.

“Impunity is a distinctive trait of most enforced disappearances, and it has a multiplying effect, generating additional suffering and anguish for the victims and their families”, Luciano Hazan, the Chair of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

On behalf of the five-member team, he presented a thematic reporton the standards and public policies needed for effective investigation of these cases.

“States must also guarantee the autonomy and independence of the authorities charged with the criminal investigation and prosecution, including of the judicial authorities”, upheld the Chair.

Coronavirus multiplier

The Covid-19 pandemic has not only created new contexts for such disappearances, but also for how States respond, Mr. Hazan pointed out.

The measures used to fight pandemic, such as confinement or security re-deployments to ensure implementation, “obviously have affected the capacity of all actors to conduct search and investigation of enforced disappearances”, he said.

The experts issued eight key guidelines to assist and guide Member States in adhering to their international obligations during the pandemic, such as to ensure that information should be provided to the families of individuals deprived of their liberty.

Other matters

Mr. Hazan also presented the Group’sannualreport of activities, communications and cases along with reports on country visits.

On Kyrgyzstan, the UN independent experts acknowledged significant legislative improvements in combatting enforced disappearance in recent years but noted that substantive changes in practice are still needed.

Andon their visit to Tajikistan, among other things, the experts called on the Government to acknowledge the suffering of families who have no information on the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives more than 20 years after the civil war – recommending the adoption of a truth-seeking State policy and specific mechanisms, supported by dedicated resources, to deal with these disappearances.

In presenting its follow-up report on the recommendations made during a past visit toTurkey, the Working Group’s first suggestion was for the country to recognize the enforced disappearances of the past and adopt a comprehensive policy to guarantee victims’ rights to truth, justice, reparation and non-recurrence.

Independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. They are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Click here for the full list of who is on the Working Group.

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