Convention against Enforced Disappearance takes effect

December 24, 2010

With the twentieth ratification, the UN Convention against Enforced Disappearance took effect on December 23. The convention defines an enforced disappearance as occurring when authorities deprive an individual of liberty and then refuse to provide information regarding the person’s fate or whereabouts. Human Rights Watch welcomed the news:

The treaty should advance justice for victims and accountability for those responsible, Human Rights Watch said. … “Enforced disappearances inflict unbearable cruelty not just on the victims, but on family members – who often wait years or decades to learn of their fate,” said Aisling Reidy, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. “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.”  Relatives of the disappeared campaigned relentlessly for the Convention against Enforced Disappearance, which both elaborates on the prohibition against disappearances and recognizes the rights of victims’ families to truth and a remedy. The governments of Argentina and France provided diplomatic leadership for the convention to gain the necessary international support, Human Rights Watch said. Enforced disappearances constitute an international crime, prohibited in all circumstances. They may form the basis for prosecutions for war crimes or crimes against humanity, and a disappearance triggers an obligation to investigate and prosecute. Although international law has long recognized their illegality, new disappearances continue across all regions. Governments have also routinely failed to effectively investigate and provide information on the fate of those previously disappeared, which constitutes a continuing violation.

More here.