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GENEVA (17 December 2020) – The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) has just registered the 1,000th urgent action request, marking a significant milestone for the mechanism. Among registered cases, 49% concern disappearances in Iraq and 42% disappearances in Mexico.
An urgent action is a request from CED to a State party to immediately take all necessary measures to search and locate a disappeared person. Established by the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the urgent actions procedure allows families, relatives and representatives of disappeared persons to submit a request to CED after having reported the disappearance to the relevant national authorities.
“Behind each urgent action request, there is a human tragedy. The whole family of the victim suffers from the absence of their loved one and from the uncertainty as to whether the victim is still alive. As time passes, the chance of finding the person alive reduces and the grievance increases,” said the Committee.
Through the urgent action procedure, 90 people have been located so far in Iraq, Mexico, Morocco, Argentina, Togo, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Bolivia, Cuba and Cambodia. The Committee is confident that more victims will be found in coming weeks and months. For this, the active cooperation of State authorities, the coordination of search and investigation processes, and the involvement of relatives of those disappeared are essential.
In one of the most recent cases, three land defenders from an indigenous community in Chiapas, Mexico, were disappeared on 8 June this year. Their families suspected a paramilitary group, which allegedly acted with the acquiescence of government officials, was involved in the disappearance. The paramilitary group had threatened, abducted and killed members of this community in the past. Following the CED urgent action request sent to Mexico on 12 June, a task force was set up at the national level including State and civil society representatives to negotiate with the paramilitary group. Two days later, the victims were released.
“We are encouraged to see victims reunited with their families. We will continue to work with relatives and State parties to search for those who are still missing. If you need help to find someone who was forcibly disappeared, you can request the Committee’s support,” the Committee said.
The urgent actions procedure enables the swift engagement of CED with States parties, by providing recommendations on measures to search for disappeared persons and to investigate their disappearance. It only takes 24 to 48 hours to engage this procedure, making it a quick and reactive mechanism for the search of disappeared persons, where time is of essence.
The Committee may also ask State parties to adopt interim measures to protect complainants, families and witnesses who may suffer reprisals for their involvement in the search for the disappeared.
CED publishes reports on urgent actions twice a year, including an assessment of the general trends and recommendations. It also publishes a list of all disappeared persons. Details of the urgent action procedure is available online.
To date 63 States have become parties to the Convention and have therefore recognised the competence of the CED to receive urgent action requests. As the Convention marks its 10th anniversary, the Committee is calling on all States to step up efforts to ratify this vital human rights instrument.