Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary General António Guterres on Sunday urged all member states to ratify the Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances (ICPPED).

Guterres made the call in a message commemorating this year’s International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, observed on Aug. 30 annually.

He stated that implementation of the convention by all states is critical to elimination of “this atrocious crime”, which he said had become a global problem.

He said: “The crime of enforced disappearance is rife across the world.

“We see new cases almost daily, including the disappearance of defenders of the environment, who are often indigenous peoples.

“Meanwhile, the excruciating pain of old cases is still acute, as the fate of thousands of disappeared people remains unknown, making the crime a continuous presence in the lives of the loved ones of the lost.”

According to the UN, enforced disappearances have transcended military dictatorships, and are now “perpetrated in complex situations of internal conflict, especially as a means of political repression of opponents”.

Newsmen report that the UN General Assembly adopted the ICPPED text on Dec. 20, 2006, and opened it for signature on Feb. 6, 2007.

The instrument entered into force on Dec. 23, 2010, and as of today, it has been signed by 98 countries and ratified by 62.

By signing a convention, a member state agrees on its contents and indicates its intention to work toward implementing it.

Only through ratification does it become a legally binding obligation under international law.

In addition, ratification also means the procedure in a country that translates the instrument into a domestic law.

The UN Committee and Working Group on Enforced Disappearances have identified additional worrying trends of the problem.

They include “reprisals against relatives of the victims and members of civil society, often in the name of security and counter-terrorism”.

Guterres said enforced disappearance also had gendered consequences particularly affecting women and other vulnerable groups.

“Under international human rights law, families and societies have a right to know the truth about what happened.

“I call on Member States to fulfil this responsibility.

“With the support of international human rights mechanisms, States have a duty to strengthen their efforts to prevent enforced disappearances, to search for victims, and to increase assistance to victims and their relatives.

“It is equally critical to pursue credible and impartial judicial investigations.

“On this International Day, let us renew our commitment to end all enforced disappearances,” the UN Chief said.

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