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ICRC calls on States to join convention against enforced disappearance

27-08-2010 News Release 10/155

Geneva (ICRC) – More States should urgently become party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, a key instrument to prevent and eradicate disappearances, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today. In the run-up to the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August, the ICRC expressed regret that the convention has still not entered into force as it has not yet been ratified by 20 States. To date, 83 States have signed the convention and 19 have become party to it.

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" This convention sends a message of hope to the families of the disappeared, " said Olivier Dubois, deputy head of the Central Tracing Agency and Protection Division of the ICRC. " Causing people to disappear by means of secret imprisonment, abduction or extrajudicial killing can never be justified. The families of the disappeared experience extreme pain and anxiety, which can last for years – sometimes a lifetime – and make it difficult for them to lead normal lives. It is imperative that as many States as possible sign and become party to the convention. "

Enforced disappearance is a crime under international human rights law and – when it occurs in war – under international humanitarian law. The convention contains a series of measures to prevent forced disappearances, including the requirement that any person deprived of liberty must be registered by the detaining authority. It also establishes the right of any victim to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person. States that sign and ratify the treaty have to make enforced disappearance an offence under their national criminal law.

In every situation of armed conflict or internal violence, people disappear. The tragedy affects millions of people all over the world. The ICRC works to prevent people from going missing, to help clarify what happened to those who do disappear and to support the families of missing persons.

The ICRC seeks to ensure that the needs of the families of missing people – including their legal, financial, social and psychological needs – are met. It accepts tracing requests and attempts to locate missi ng people, an endeavour that can involve visits to places of detention, hospitals or morgues, or appeals to the authorities to investigate. Tracing can be a complex and lengthy process involving the participation not only of the ICRC but also of National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies in several countries.

For further information, please contact:
  Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 3217