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U.N.: 'Disappearances' Treaty a Major Advance

Countries Should Push for Treaty's Worldwide Adoption and Ratification

The adoption of an international treaty against forced disappearances at the United Nations is a great step forward in the fight against this crime, said Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation of Human Rights and Human Rights Watch.

The four human rights organizations called on all U.N. member states to ensure that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is quickly adopted by consensus in the U.N. General Assembly. All countries should ratify the treaty as soon as possible.

The four organizations thanked the delegations that contributed to the adoption of this treaty in Geneva on Friday and particularly wished to congratulate Ambassador Bernard Kessedjian of France, chairman of the U.N. working group that drafted the treaty, for his tenacity, engagement and tireless work on the part of the victims.

This Convention represents an extremely important development in the fight against forced disappearances and for the protection of victims and their families. On the whole, the adopted text addresses the concerns of the four organizations, but could be subject to their detailed comments at a later time. Today, the groups would like to express their satisfaction with regard to the following points:

First, the Convention is an autonomous treaty endowed with its own treaty-monitoring committee. This choice recognizes both the suffering of victims of forced disappearances and their families’ tireless fight to locate them. It will also guarantee the treaty’s effectiveness in the future, even after reforms of the U.N. human rights system.

The Convention also constitutes a great step forward in the historical development of international law on the issue, and it is based on firmly established standards in customary law. The treaty also recognizes a new right not to be subjected to forced disappearance and requires states to prohibit this practice under their national laws.

Moreover, the Convention recognizes that, in certain circumstances, forced disappearances can be considered a crime against humanity. Consequently, such crimes can be prosecuted in international criminal proceedings through the response of the international community.

The Convention establishes an ensemble of legal instruments on the national and international level that will allow states to effectively prevent forced disappearances. The mandatory jurisdiction of the treaty’s committee in the case of urgent appeals is particularly important in this regard.

The Convention will be an invaluable tool in the fight against impunity for perpetrators of forced disappearances. The four human rights organizations also believe that the treaty provides a solid platform for the future, and they will watch to ensure that it is interpreted in an evolutionary way. The treaty should reflect developments in international law in the fight against impunity, specifically those that reject amnesty for crimes against humanity and the prosecution of human rights abusers by military tribunals alone.

Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation of Human Rights and Human Rights Watch would like to pay homage to the families of the disappeared, who have inspired our organizations with their lasting courage and unshakable hope over the years. Since the families keep hope alive, we cannot fail to do the same.

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