The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has warned that enforced disappearances are on the rise, and expressed deep concern and frustration for what it defined as ‘a very frightening trend’, agencies report.
“We’re seriously concerned that the number of enforced disappearances is increasingly rising with the false and pernicious belief that they are a useful tool to preserve national security and combat terrorism,” said the human rights experts during the presentation of its latest report to the UN Human Rights Council.
During the last year alone, the experts said, they dealt with 483 urgent actions out of 766 newly reported cases of disappearance in 37 States; more than three times higher than those reflected in their previous year’s annual report.
“This means more than one disappearance per day, and obviously it’s just the tip of the iceberg when we talk about the cases the Working Group receives.”
The experts expressed concern in particular about a steep increase in the so-called ‘short-term disappearances’, the unacknowledged deprivation of liberty which puts the individual concerned outside the protection of the law for a limited amount of time.
The fact that the victim reappears in many of these cases, doesn’t render less worrisome this form of enforced disappearance, which is equally serious and must be eradicated, the experts observed.
“We strongly reiterate that there is no time limit, no matter how short, for an enforced disappearance to occur,” they said in their presentation. Since its creation in 1980, the expert group has transmitted a total of 55,273 cases to 107 States, according to a message received here from Geneva.
The number of cases under active consideration stands at 44,159 in 91 States in total. During the last year, 161 cases were clarified. The expert group also drew attention to a pattern of threats, intimidation and reprisals against victims of enforced disappearance, including family members, witnesses and human rights defenders working on such cases.
In its report, the Working Group also makes preliminary observations on the problem of enforced disappearances in the context of migration. Over the next year, the experts will assess the issues of migration caused by enforced disappearances, enforced disappearances of migrants, factors contributing to the enforced disappearance of migrants; and State obligations in the context of the enforced disappearance of migrants.
“We’re grateful for the interests shown by many delegations and other stakeholders on the crucial issue of enforced disappearances in the context of migration and would welcome any input thereon as we embark in further studying this issue,” they added in their presentation.
The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Houria Es-Slami and the Vice-Chair is Bernard Duhaime, while the other members are Tae-Ung Baik, Ariel Dulitzky and Henrikas Mickevicius.