(HN, December 23, 2010) - The entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is being hailed as a milestone event in the fight to prevent and eradicate disappearances.
"It is an important achievement in the struggle against a cause of indescribable fear and sorrow for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide," said Olivier Dubois, deputy head of the Central Tracing Agency and Protection Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "This convention will certainly contribute to greater protection against enforced disappearance. States that are party to it must implement it into national law. They must put it into practice and make enforced disappearance an offence under their national criminal law."
Enforced disappearance is a crime under international human rights law and – when it occurs in war – under international humanitarian law. The convention contains a series of measures to prevent forced disappearances.
For example, it requires that any person deprived of liberty must be registered by the detaining authority. It also enshrines the right of any victim to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person. The convention also requires suitable criminal sanctions to be taken against persons who commit enforced disappearances. As of today, the provisions of the treaty are legally binding on the first 20 States that have ratified or acceded to it.
Iraq, which acceded to the treaty 30 days ago, triggered the entry into force. Tens of thousands of people in Iraq are still hoping to receive news of their relatives who have gone missing in the country since the 1980s.
The other signatories as of now are: Albania, Argentina, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Senegal, Spain and Uruguay. It will also be binding on Brazil as of 29 December 2010.
In every situation of armed conflict or internal violence, people disappear. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, to mention just one other example, the fate of more than 10,000 people who went missing during the conflict in the early 1990s remains unknown.
Despite its illegality in international law, Human Rights Watch said world governments "routinely" fail to investigate accounts of disappearances.
"Putting this landmark treaty into effect is immensely important, but to end this practice, every country is going to have to recognize that it may never abduct people and hide them away," Aisling Reidy, a legal adviser for the rights group, said in a statement.
The ICRC works around the world to prevent people from going missing, to help clarify what happened to those who do disappear and to support the families of missing persons. The ICRC has also actively supported the process of drafting the convention and is committed to achieving its widespread ratification and implementation.
- HUMNEWS staff, ICRC, UN