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ICRC welcomes approval of Convention on enforced disappearance by UN Human Rights Council

29-06-2006 News Release 06/71

Geneva (ICRC) – The text of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance was approved today by the recently established UN Human Rights Council.

" The Convention raises hopes for the future because its provisions are aimed at preventing disappearances. We trust that it will rapidly be adopted by the UN General Assembly and then widely ratified by States, " said Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Enforced disappearance is any form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of a State or by persons acting on behalf of a State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which places such a person outside the protection of the law. Those who find themselves in such a situation are exposed to the danger of torture or even extrajudicial killing. Their families are kept in the dark about their whereabouts and their fate.

The Convention is the first international treaty to explicitly ban practices leading to enforced disappearances. It requires States to incorporate the crime of enforced disappearance into their own legislation and to prosecute and punish perpetrators accordingly. A provision enshrining people's right to know what happened to their relatives will be of crucial importance in preventing enforced disappearances and alleviating the suffering of detainees and their families.

The Convention outlaws secret detention and requires States to hold all detainees in officially recognized places of detention, maintain up-to-date official registers and detailed records of all detainees, authorize detainees to communicate with their families and legal counsel and give competent authorities access to detainees – obligations that are all critical to preventing enforced disappearances. The ICRC always insists on the importance of these rules when it visits people held in connection with armed conflicts and other situations of violence. It therefore welcomes their inclusion in the new treaty.

ICRC visits to places of detention last year benefited 500,000 people held in connection with armed conflicts or other situations of violence in nearly 80 countries worldwide. This Convention, applicable both in peacetime and in time of armed conflict, will be an additional legal tool on which the ICRC can rely in its efforts to prevent enforced disappearances and protect detainees. 

 For further information, please contact:  

 Antonella Notari, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 22 82 or +41 79 217 32 80 (mobile)  



Various other ICRC statements on the subject and extensive information on the work the organization carries out for missing persons and their families are available on this website. In particular, see the

  ICRC address to the UN Human Rights Council on 27 June 2006.