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Enforced disappearance


1. Latest developments in New York Retour à la table des matières

- On 25 November 2013, the UNGA 3rd Committee adopted a resolution presented by France, Argentina and Morocco on the Convention against Enforced Disappearance. The resolution adopted by consensus was supported by 97 co-sponsors.

The resolution expressed deep concern by the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world and calls upon all States to ratify the Convention. In addition, it recognizes the work done by the Committee and the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances.

- Co-sponsored by France and Argentina, the Second Meeting of States Parties to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance took place in New York on 28 May 2013.

Five members of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances were elected to replace those whose terms expired on 30 June 2013, in accordance with paragraph 4 of article 26 of the Convention.


From left to right : Mrs Lita Boitano and Mrs Taty Almeida, representatives of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo association ; Mrs Estella de Carlotto, Chair of the Grand-Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo association ; Mrs Béatrice Le Fraper du Hellen, legal adviser of the French Representation to the UN and Moderator ; Mr Martin Briens, Chargé d’affaires a.i of France to the UN and Chair of the meeting ; Mrs Maria Cristina Perceval, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the UN ; Mrs Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court Prosecutor ; Mrs Marta Vasquez, Chair of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo association ; Mr José Luis Diaz, representative of Amnesty International to the UN. - Photo: Franceonu/Alix Maisonnave


- The first meeting of the States Parties to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance took place on 31 May 2011 in New York under Argentina’s presidency.

On this occasion, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs made the following statement:

"The 26 States Parties to the Convention elected the 10 members of the new UN Committee tasked with ensuring compliance with the Convention and handling individual complaints: in addition to France and Argentina, Albania, Germany, Spain, Iraq, Japan, Senegal, Uruguay and Zambia were elected.

This meeting took place in the presence of Estella Carlotto, the symbolic chairperson of the “Association of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo” who, 35 years after the disappearance and murder of her daughter Laura, is still looking for the child that her daughter gave birth to while in detention.

During the debate, organized on the initiative of France, Argentina and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, many participants from the States and representatives of civil society spoke about the history of the Convention, which came about as a result of the massive kidnapping campaigns conducted by the Argentinean and Chilean dictators. France’s leading role in this process was reaffirmed: our country ensured the adoption of the first UN resolution on enforced disappearances in 1978 and chaired the negotiations which led to the Convention.

The participants unanimously commended the courage and persistence of the families of the victims who have broken the silence about these crimes which - without any bodies, without any records and without the identities of those responsible - seemed to amount to the perfect crime for the perpetrators. The relevance of enforced disappearances was reaffirmed on this occasion in light of the recent indictment by the International Criminal Court of Muammar Qaddafi for enforced disappearances.

Lastly, the participants called for the universal ratification of this convention which makes an essential contribution to the protection of human rights. "

2. Overview Retour à la table des matières

Enforced disappearances are abductions for political motives, not followed by demands, and the perpetrators of which are acting on behalf of or with the approval of the State. These unsolved and unpunished disappearances are serious Human Rights violations and must be fought.

For many years, France has strived to get an international legal instrument adopted.

France presided over the negotiations concerning the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 47/133 of 18 December 1992.

After the Declaration of 1992, the UN General Assembly began working on a convention. In 1998, a French expert, Louis Joinet, wrote the first draft binding instrument on the topic.

France headed up the working group created by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, tasked with writing a draft binding instrument for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance. This working group completed its work on 23 September 2005, by adopting a draft for an international convention, on the initiative of France and Argentina.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 2006

The draft was adopted by the Human Rights Council during its first session on 29 June 2006 and then by the United Nations general Assembly on 20 December 2006 with 103 cosponsorships. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was open for signature on 6 February 2007. It is the culmination of more than 25 years of work carried out by the families of disappeared persons with the support from different quarters of the international community, notably Argentina and France. It is a decisive step in terms of promoting and protecting Human Rights and fighting against impunity.

Straddling the lines between Human Rights, international humanitarian law and international criminal law, the Convention is based in particular on the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is inspired by the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance of 1992.

The Convention establishes a legal definition of forced disappearance, which is binding on States parties. It makes it a criminal offence for a State - or individual acting at its instigation - to cause a person to disappear without the fate reserved for this person ever being known. It describes the widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance as a "crime against humanity". It bans secret detention centers and strengthens procedural guarantees for putting people into custody. It opens for families and relatives the right to know the truth about the fate of victims of enforced disappearances.

France, having worked resolutely for this cause, had the special privilege, in a break with custom for a UN convention, of hosting the ceremony opening the convention to signature in February 2007. In September 2008, Secretary of State Rama Yade deposited France’s instruments of ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. France became the fifth state in the world and the first EU member to ratify the convention.

On 1st May 2013, 91 States had signed the Convention (see the list of signatories on the UN website).

Twenty ratifications were needed for the text to enter into force. On 24 November 2010, Iraq was the twentieth country to ratify the Convention, which allowed it to enter into force on 23 December 2010.


6 February 2007 : Ceremony for the opening to signature of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Statement by Mr. Philippe Douste-Blazy, Minister of Foreign affairs, in the presence of Ms. Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Cristina Kirchner, Senator for the Province of Buenos Aires and Ms. Marta Vasquez-Ocampo, representing the "Mothers of the May Square" of Argentina - Ministère des Affaires étrangères. Photo F. de La Mure


Enforced disappearances are an ever-present reality as evidenced by the work of the United Nations group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, a group established in February 1980. This group has handled over 50,000 cases in 80 countries over three decades of existence. In the first half of 2010, more than 200 new cases were submitted to this working group.

France continues to work towards the universalisation of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances. It welcomes its entry into force on 23 December 2010 and calls on all signatory countries to ratify the Convention.

By resolution A/RES/65/209 adopted on 19 November 2010 by the UNGA, 30 August has been established as the International Day of the Disappeared since 1984.

(November 2013)

3. Reference documents Retour à la table des matières

- 25 November 2013 - General Assembly - Resolution

- 20 December 2006 - International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

- 18 December 1992 - General Assembly Resolution 47/133 - Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance

4. Useful links Retour à la table des matières

- Thematic file on enforced disappearances on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

- Website of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

- Status of signatures and ratifications of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance



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