Marking the 2016 International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the anguished women and men – parents, children, partners or friends – desperately seeking any information on their loved ones who have disappeared are also victims of enforced disappearances.
“They have a right to know the truth regarding the circumstances of these disappearances, the progress and results of any investigations, and ultimately, the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones,” Mr. Ban underlined in his message on the Day.
Referring to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which defines a victim as ‘any individual who has suffered harm as the direct result of an enforced disappearance,’ the UN chief reminded all States of their obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish enforced disappearances, as well as to provide redress to the victims.
The UN General Assembly voted in 2010 to designate 30 August as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances to draw attention to the global problem of enforced disappearance. Once largely the product of military dictatorships, risks of enforced disappearances are high in complex situations of internal conflict, especially as a means of political repression of opponents.
In his message, Mr. Ban noted that with support from their communities, human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations, these victims seek and demand adequate responses from the authorities.
“However, [they] often face a lack of responsiveness or outright hostility from the authorities to which they reach out,” said Mr. Ban, drawing attention to the accounts of reprisals such as arbitrary arrests, threats and intimidation against relatives, or against those that support them, received by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the two main UN expert mechanisms in this field.
Calling on Member States to acknowledge that family and friends of the disappeared are also victims, and to guarantee their right to full protection from any form of reprisals, the Secretary-General urged them to “sign, ratify or accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which includes specific provisions against the ill-treatment or intimidation of witnesses, relatives, and persons participating in the investigation of enforced disappearances.”
“Let us all show solidarity with the victims and their relatives as they strive to realize their right for truth and justice,” he added.
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