• Send page
  • Print page

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

31-12-2002 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 848, by Federico Andreu-Guzmán

This article describes the establishment, mandate and development of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The author examines various activities of the Group and offers recommendations on how to make its work more effective.


The article outlines the inception and subsequent development of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, describes its mandate and working methods, reviews its activities and makes several recommendations to restore its effectiveness.

Established in 1980 with a humanitarian mandate, the Group saw its duties steadily increase and, when the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances was adopted, it was entrusted with the task of monitoring States’ compliance with their obligations deriving from it. Its humanitarian task includes an elucidatory procedure to trace the whereabouts of missing persons. In its task of monitoring compliance with the Declaration, the Group verifies that the obligations deriving from it are duly performed by States and addresses general observations and recommendations to them.

During its existence the Group has made substantial contributio ns. For several reasons, however, it has lost much of its effectiveness. Yet enforced disappearances are not a thing of the past, nor are they diminishing. The Group and its mandate are as necessary as ever.