[back to the contents]
Syrian Arab Republic
United Arab Emirates
III. COUNTRIES IN WHICH ALL REPORTED CASES OF DISAPPEARANCE HAVE BEEN CLARIFIED
IV. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
V. ADOPTION OF THE REPORT
I. Decisions on individual cases taken by the Working Group during 1997
II. Statistical summary: Cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances reported to the Working Group between 1980 and 1997
III. Graphs showing the development of disappearances in countries with more than 100 transmitted cases during the period 1973-1997
296. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted three newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of Peru, one of which reportedly occurred in 1997. During the same period, the Working Group clarified three cases on the basis of information previously provided by the Government on which no observations had been received from the source within a period of six months; it also clarified two other cases on the basis of information provided by the source reporting that the persons concerned were no longer disappeared. In accordance with its methods of work, the Group retransmitted to the Government two cases, updated with new information from the source. 297. The vast majority of the 3,004 cases of reported disappearances in Peru occurred between 1983 and 1992 in the context of the Government's fight against terrorist organizations, especially Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). In late 1982, the armed forces and police undertook a counter-insurgency campaign and the armed forces were granted a great deal of latitude in fighting Sendero Luminoso and in restoring public order. While the majority of reported disappearances took place in areas of the country which had been under a state of emergency and were under military control, in particular in the regions of Ayacucho, Huancavelica, San Martín and Apurimac, disappearances also took place in other parts of Peru. Detentions were reportedly frequently carried out openly by uniformed members of the armed forces, sometimes together with the Civil Defence Groups. Some 20 other cases reportedly occurred in 1993 in the Department of Ucayali and concerned largely the disappearance of peasants.
298. Out of concern for the situation of disappearances in Peru, two members of the Working Group, at the invitation of the Government, visited Peru from 17 to 22 June 1985 and again from 3 to 10 October 1986, on the Group's behalf. Their reports are contained in documents E/CN.4/1986/18/Add.1 and E/CN.4/1987/15/Add.1.
299. Of the newly reported cases, only one is said to have occurred in 1997. Reportedly, the subject disappeared in Huanuco following his abduction from his home by members of the military. The other two cases reportedly occurred in 1996, in the Departments of Ucayali and San Martín.
300. During the course of the year, concern continued to be expressed to the Working Group that the adoption in 1995 of the amnesty law, which granted a general amnesty to all those members of the security forces and civilians who were the subject of a complaint, investigation, indictment, trial or conviction, or who were serving prison sentences for human rights violations committed between May 1980 and 15 June 1995, has resulted in total impunity for the perpetrators of disappearance and other human rights violations.
301. It was further alleged that while the number of cases of reported disappearance in Peru has decreased considerably since 1993, such cases do continue to be reported, although in reduced numbers. Serious concern was expressed to the Working Group at the vast number of cases which remain unclarified. It is said that the Government is unable to carry out investigations into disappearances in a prompt and thorough manner.
302. It was further reported that in violation of article 19 of the Declaration, adequate compensation has not been granted to the victims of acts of enforced disappearance and their families.
303. During the period under review, the Government of Peru provided the Working Group with replies on 47 individual cases; in three cases it reported that the persons concerned had been released, and in one case that the subject had died. In the other 43 cases, the Working Group decided that the replies were insufficient to constitute a clarification.
304. The Government of Peru also replied to the allegations contained in the Working Group's report of 1997 (E/CN.4/1997/34). It sent a voluminous report prepared by the Permanent Secretariat of the Peruvian National Human Rights Commission of the Ministry of the Interior containing detailed graphs and statistics. In connection with the Working Group's concerns on the general amnesty granted under the 1995 amnesty law, the Government stated that the Peruvian Congress had passed the law in the general interest of the State. The Government affirmed that the amnesty was not a declaration of innocence, but rather had a political function to ensure internal social stability, and that administrative penalties against those convicted remained intact.
305. The Government of Peru denied the allegations regarding the ineffectiveness of the National Registry of Detainees in preventing disappearances. The Government quoted the National Registry's 1996 report which records the impact of the project on the protection of human rights, and provided statistics that link the decreased number of complaints lodged with the Special Prosecutors Defence and the Human Rights Office to the work of the National Registry. The Government further stated that the implementation of the Registry throughout the country, together with a reduction in the number of armed confrontations, has been a decisive element in the reduction of the number of cases of disappearance.
306. The Working Group wishes to thank the Government for the information which it has provided during the period under review. The Group reiterates its opinion, however, that the amnesty law of 28 June 1995, which resulted in the closing of all investigations into outstanding cases of disappearance, violates articles 17 and 18 of the Declaration. It creates an atmosphere of impunity which could be conducive to further acts of disappearance and other similar human rights violations.
307. It wishes to remind the Government of its commitment under article 13 of the Declaration to carry out a thorough and impartial investigation for as long as the fate and whereabouts of the victims remain unclarified. The Working Group further expresses its concern that no efforts have been made to compensate the families of the victims of enforced disappearance, in accordance with article 19 of the Declaration.[back to the contents]
308. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted four newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of the Philippines, all of which reportedly occurred in 1997 and were sent under the urgent action procedure. Two cases were sent jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.
309. The majority of the 500 reported cases of disappearance occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, virtually throughout the country, and took place within the context of the Government's anti-insurgency campaign.
310. During the period 1975 to 1980, the persons who disappeared were reportedly farmers, students, social workers, members of Church groups, lawyers, journalists and economists, among others. The arrests were carried out by armed men belonging to an identified military organization or to a police unit such as the Philippine Constabulary, the Central Intelligence Unit, the military police, and other organizations. In the following years, the reported cases of disappearance concerned young men living in rural and urban areas, described as members of legally constituted student, labour, religious, political or human rights organizations, which the military authorities have claimed are a front for the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA). Among the groups most commonly targeted were said to be KADENA (Youth for Democracy and Nationalism) and the National Federation of Sugar Workers. One case, which reportedly occurred in 1995, concerned a health worker who disappeared in Mindanao; another case, which is said to have taken place in 1996, concerned a farmer who was allegedly arrested while travelling in an area where the Philippine Army is said to have been conducting military operations against suspected NPA rebels.
311. Despite the peace talks initiated by the Government with several opposition movements, disappearances have continued in the 1990s, mainly in the context of action by the security forces against the NPA, the Moro National Liberation Front, the Mindanao Islamic Liberation Front, the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units and the Civilian Volunteer Organizations.
312. Out of concern for the situation of disappearances in the Philippines, and at the invitation of the Government, two members of the Working Group visited the country from 27 August to 7 September 1990. A full report on their visit is contained in document E/CN.4/1991/20/Add.1.
313. The four newly reported cases concern a lawyer and his driver who are alleged to have been abducted by members of the security forces in Manila. The other two cases concern a peasant who is said to have disappeared in San Roane, and a community organizer who was allegedly abducted by members of the armed forces in Zambales province.
314. Concern continued to be expressed to the Working Group over the lack of progress in determining the fate of those who have disappeared in the Philippines and in bringing the perpetrators to justice. It is said that the majority of cases remain unsolved and the families of the victims have not received redress. While the number of disappearances has reportedly declined since 1972, disappearances continue to be carried out. Concern was expressed to the Group at the Government's failure to deal with the issue of impunity or to address the conditions which continue to allow disappearances to continue to take place today.
315. During the period under review, the Government of the Philippines provided information on three outstanding cases. On two cases it reported that "the search carried out to date had failed to produce positive results. However, the initial investigation did not support the allegation of the involvement of the Philippine army in the disappearances". In the third case, it reported that the person concerned had voluntarily surrendered to the Government under its amnesty programme and was being held in protective custody.
316. The Government also submitted comments from the Philippines Commission on Human Rights on the human rights concerns of local non-governmental organizations regarding disappearances in the Philippines, as reflected in the Working Group's last report. The Government stated, inter alia, that reported cases of missing persons were being investigated by the authorities, but that their efforts were sometimes hampered by the absence of reliable sources and witnesses. Many witnesses were afraid to testify, and as a result the Government had upgraded the witness protection programme.
317. The Government further reported that it had created the Task Force on Disappearances, which was working on cases of disappearance at the regional level, and had established a Memorandum of Agreement with Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND) to extend financial assistance to victims. The Government also stated that it was taking a "preventive approach" to disappearances which can occur in countries "beset by social unrest and insurgency movements", by introducing economic measures to improve the living conditions of the marginalized sectors of society and by extending its amnesty programme.
318. The Government stated that it would "review all outstanding cases of alleged disappearances ... submitted by the Working Group, with the objective of determining the course of action to be recommended, including, inter alia, ... possible financial compensation to the families of the victims. The review would focus on the issue of impunity and examine the conditions under which the disappearances took place". The Government also noted that continuing reforms are being undertaken in the Philippine military and police, and said that a number of measures were pending before Congress aimed at incorporating the provisions of the Declaration into domestic law.
319. In reply to the Working Group's questions on the issue of compensation, the Government submitted a copy of Republic Act No. 7309, creating a Board of Claims for Victims of Unjust Imprisonment or Detention and Victims of Violent Crimes. This information is contained in chapter I.F on compensation.
320. At its fifty-third session, the Working Group met with representatives of the Government of the Philippines and engaged in an exchange of views with regard to the cases which remain pending. The Government stressed the importance it attached to trying to clear up the outstanding cases and explained the difficulties it often encountered in this regard. It noted, in particular, the problems of a lack of witnesses and lack of more detailed information. The Government also informed the Working Group of its policies with regard to the payment of compensation and noted that, so far, 282 individuals had received payment. It stressed the importance the Government of the Philippines accorded to human rights education and said that the provisions of human rights law had been incorporated into all military training.
321. The Working Group would like to express its appreciation to the Government for the cooperation which it has extended during the period under review, and for the information which it has provided. In particular, the Working Group would like to thank the Government for the efforts which it has taken to clarify the outstanding cases, compensate the victims and their families, and establish the Task Force on Disappearances.
322. While the Working Group understands the difficulties which the Government faces in combating violence, it nevertheless wishes to remind the Government that no circumstances whatsoever, including internal political instability, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances, as stipulated in article 7 of the Declaration. It also wishes to remind the Government of its responsibilities under articles 13 and 14 of the Declaration to investigate promptly, thoroughly and impartially all alleged cases of enforced disappearance for as long as the fate of the victim remains unclarified and to bring the perpetrators to justice.[back to the contents]
323. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 33 newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of the Russian Federation.
324. Of the 160 cases transmitted in the past, two allegedly occurred in 1996 and concerned ethnic Chechens who are said to have been arrested by OMON, the Special Forces of the Russian Interior Ministry, during an early morning raid on the settlement of Dolinskoye, some 20 km west of Grozny, in August 1996. One hundred and fifty other cases concerned persons of ethnic Ingush origin who reportedly disappeared in 1992 during the fighting between the ethnic Ossetians and the Ingush. Eight other cases concerned persons who reportedly disappeared in 1994 in the Ingush Republic. The Northern Ossetian forces are said to have acted with the acquiescence of the OMON.
325. All of the newly reported cases occurred in Chechnya, the majority in late 1994 and early 1995. The Russian military forces were allegedly responsible.
326. During the period under review, the Government of the Russian Federation informed the Working Group, with regard to the cases transmitted last year, that an investigation was being carried out by the General Procurator's office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Security Service. The Working Group would be kept informed of the results of the investigation.
327. With regard to the cases reported to have occurred in Chechnya, the Government informed the Group that investigations were being carried out throughout the Northern Caucasus region by officials of the Russian Federation Ministry of the Interior in the Chechen Republic, in order to determine the whereabouts of the persons reported as missing. It stated that there was no record of the missing persons in the data banks of the Central Information Centre or the Central Department for the Execution of Punishment of the Russian Federation Ministry of the Interior. The Government suggested that representatives of the Chechen Republic Ministry of the Interior meet the persons who reported the disappearance in order to obtain information which would help it to determine the fate of the disappeared person.
328. The Working Group wishes to thank the Government for the information which it has provided during the period under review. Nevertheless, it remains deeply concerned that not one of the 193 cases reported to it has been clarified. In this connection, it would like to remind the Government that all persons deprived of liberty shall be held in an officially recognized place of detention and have prompt access to family members, legal counsel and judicial authorities, in accordance with articles 9 and 10 of the Declaration. In addition, the Government has an obligation under articles 13 and 14 to promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate alleged cases of enforced disappearance and bring the perpetrators to justice.[back to the contents]
329. During the period under review, the Working Group retransmitted one case of disappearance to the Government of Rwanda, updated with new information from the source.
330. The human rights field officers deployed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in support of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Rwanda have been instructed to receive pertinent information about disappearances and to channel such reports to the Working Group.
331. During the period under review, the Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) informed the Group that it had received relatively few reports of cases of alleged enforced or involuntary disappearances between January and October 1997, particularly compared with the scale of other human rights violations. The majority of such cases brought to the attention of HRFOR concerned the alleged disappearance of recent returnees, in particular members of the former Rwandese Armed Forces who had gone back to Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Republic of Tanzania. In the majority of cases, it had not been possible to determine the identities of the perpetrators of those disappearances. HRFOR reported that it was often difficult, if not impossible, to characterize such cases of "missing" persons as enforced or involuntary disappearances. For example, in certain cases, it had been difficult to determine whether the "missing" person had disappeared or whether the person had been arrested. Within the penitentiary system, no official procedure had been established to inform families of the arrest and subsequent location of a family member.
332. HRFOR has also documented cases whereby persons reported "missing" had in fact fled their region of origin or habitual residence for fear of their personal safety or for fear of being arrested, including for alleged accusations of genocide or collaboration with armed groups. These persons might be elsewhere within the country or might even have left the country without notifying their families. In some cases, government officials had stated that certain persons believed to have disappeared had voluntarily left their homes to become part of an armed group.
333. HRFOR further reported that the classification of a given case as a "disappearance" had been further complicated by the lack of operational morgues in Rwanda, and the resulting practice of quickly burying the dead. In some cases, unidentified bodies were found and buried by local authorities on the day of their discovery. Although in these cases the authorities reportedly questioned neighbours as to the identities of the deceased, they did not widely circulate descriptions of them. Furthermore, photographs were not taken before burial, thereby preventing family members from identifying the deceased at a later date. The majority of cases of alleged disappearance reported to HRFOR in 1997 had occurred in the prefectures of Kigali Ville and Kigali Rural.
334. The majority of the 11 outstanding cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group occurred in 1990 and 1991 in the north of the country, in the context of the ethnic conflict between Tutsis and Hutus. Three other cases took place in 1993 in northern Rwanda and concerned students from the Seventh Day Adventist University in Mudende who were suspected of supporting the Rwandese Popular Front. Three other cases of disappearance allegedly occurred in 1996. One concerned the mayor of Nyabikenke, who is reportedly of Hutu origin and who is said to have been detained by members of the armed forces. Another case concerned a journalist who was allegedly arrested by the military police on the grounds that he was an accomplice to genocide, and was later released. The third case concerned a mechanic from Kigali who was reportedly arrested by soldiers of the Rwandese Patriotic Army on the grounds that his father and brothers had committed crimes during the genocide of 1994.
335. To date, no response has ever been received from the Government with regard to the outstanding cases. The Working Group is, therefore, still unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons.[back to the contents]
336. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Seychelles.
337. The three reported cases of disappearance allegedly occurred on the main island of Mahé in the years 1977 and 1984. All three persons are said to have been abducted shortly after they left their homes by persons believed to belong to the security forces. At least two of the persons were reportedly known opponents of the Government.
338. During the same period, no new information was received from the Government with regard to these cases. The Working Group is, therefore, still unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the missing persons.[back to the contents]
339. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of South Africa. During the same period, the Government informed the Working Group that in one case of disappearance, the person concerned was the subject of a hearing of the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in September 1997. Four former members of the South African Police Service were applying for amnesty regarding his death. The Working Group has requested the Government to inform it of the outcome of these hearings. With regard to the six cases, the Government replied that the South African Police Service has no records or information pertaining to them. No information on them has been registered on the population register of South African citizens. Consequently, the Working Group decided, in accordance with paragraph 20 of its methods of work, to discontinue consideration of these six cases, which remain pending on its files. The Working Group believes that it no longer has a useful role to play in trying to elucidate the whereabouts of the persons concerned, as the source of information is no longer in contact with the families and no follow-up can be given to the cases. Over the years, the Working Group has made numerous attempts to try to establish the fate and whereabouts of the persons reported as missing, both through its communications with the source, as well as with the Governments of South Africa and Namibia, however to no avail.
340. The majority of the 11 cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group occurred between 1976 and 1982 in Namibia. Since, at that time, Namibia was under South African jurisdiction and responsibility for the disappearance was imputed to agents of South Africa, the cases have been retained on the South Africa country file in accordance with the Working Group's methods of work.[back to the contents]
341. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 695 newly reported cases of disappearances to the Government of Sri Lanka, 77 of which reportedly occurred in 1997; nine were sent under the urgent action procedure.
342. Since the establishment of the Working Group in 1980, 12,208 cases of disappearance alleged to have occurred in Sri Lanka have been reported to the Working Group. The cases occurred in the context of two major sources of conflict in that country: the confrontation of Tamil separatist militants and government forces in the north and north-east of the country, and the confrontation between the People's Liberation Front (JVP) and the government forces in the south. Cases reported to have occurred between 1987 and 1990 took place mostly in the Southern and Central Provinces of the country, during a period in which both security forces and the JVP resorted to the use of extreme violence in the contest for State power. In July 1989, the conflict in the south took a particularly violent turn when the JVP adopted even more radical tactics, including enforced work stoppages, intimidation and assassination, as well as targeting the family members of the police and army. To thwart the JVP military offensive, the State launched a generalized counter-insurgency campaign and the armed forces and the police appear to have been given wide latitude to eliminate the rebel movement and restore law and order in any way they saw fit. By the end of 1989, the armed forces had put down the revolt.
343. Cases reported to have occurred since 11 June 1990, the date of resumption of hostilities with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), have taken place primarily in the Eastern and North-Eastern Provinces of the country. In the north-east, the persons most often reported detained and missing were young Tamil men accused or suspected of belonging to, collaborating with, aiding or sympathizing with LTTE. Tamil persons internally displaced owing to the conflict and staying in informal shelters such as church or school centres were particularly at risk of detention and disappearance. The most frequently utilized method of detention in the north-east was the cordon-and-search operation in which the army, often in conjunction with the police, and particularly the Special Task Force, went into a village or a rural area and detained scores of persons. Many were released within 24 to 48 hours, but a percentage of the persons remained in custody for questioning.
344. Out of concern at the situation of disappearance in Sri Lanka, and at the invitation of the Government, the Working Group undertook two missions to that country from 7 to 18 October 1991 and from 5 to 15 October 1992. The reports of the Working Group are contained in documents E/CN.4/1992/18/Add.1 and E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1.
345. The vast majority of the newly reported cases occurred during 1996 in Jaffna, Batticaloa and Mannar districts, frequently in the context of so-called round-up operations by military personnel. The number of disappearances in Sri Lanka increased steeply following the resumption of hostilities in 1995. The persons concerned were mostly young Tamil men, many of them poor farm labourers, fishermen or students from Trincomalee.
346. Serious concern has been expressed to the Working Group at the increase in the number of reported cases of disappearances during the past year. Reportedly, since the security forces regained control over the Jaffna peninsula in late 1995, the total number of disappearances is said to be the highest since 1990. It is alleged that the security forces resort to disappearances in reprisal for attacks on the security forces by members of LTTE. Reportedly, such disappearances frequently occur after the persons concerned are taken into custody during so-called round-up operations. It is further alleged that the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations facilitate such violations, as does the failure of the government to bring the perpetrators to justice. Concern was also expressed to the Working Group that the payment of compensation to affected families continues to be very slow.
347. During the period under review, the Government of Sri Lanka provided information on 56 individual cases. The vast majority of persons concerned had been released from prison or were out on bail. Five persons were reportedly detained and one is said to have been killed. The Government also informed the Working Group that the number of alleged disappearances decreased during 1997 due to the efforts of the Government to protect human rights. It said that the International Committee of the Red Cross is present in Jaffna and other parts of the country and has free access to places of detention, as does the newly established Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. In the reports of the three presidential commissions which investigated past allegations of disappearances, the Government has stated that the perpetrators will be prosecuted. The Government further informed the Group that constitutional reforms had been tabled in Parliament to protect the right to life and ensure that detained persons have the right to contact a relative or friend and to consult a lawyer. The Government also provided information on the issue of compensation, in reply to the Working Group's letter of 27 June 1997. This information is contained in chapter I.F of the present report.
348. The Working Group wishes to express its appreciation to the Government of Sri Lanka for the information which it has provided during the course of the year, and for its efforts to investigate and clarify the fate of the many thousands of persons who disappeared in the past. Nevertheless, it is alarmed at the recent re-emergence of the systematic practice of enforced disappearance in Sri Lanka, and notes that it is the country with the highest number of disappearances reported to have occurred in 1997. In addition, it remains concerned at the fact that notwithstanding the efforts of the Government, very few cases on the Working Group's files have been clarified.
349. The Group wishes to remind the Government of its obligations under article 10 of the Declaration to hold persons deprived of liberty only in officially recognized places of detention, to bring them promptly before a judicial authority and to make accurate information on the detention of such persons promptly available to their family members, their legal counsel, or to any other persons having a particular interest. The provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations currently in force do not correspond to these rights and the Working Group therefore wishes to repeat its request that the necessary legal amendments be made by the Government in order that it may comply with its obligation to prevent new cases of enforced disappearances.
350. The Working Group also wishes to remind the Government of its obligation to investigate all outstanding cases of enforced disappearances and in this respect looks forward to receiving the reports of the three presidential commissions of inquiry.[back to the contents]
351. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of the Sudan.
352. The majority of the 257 outstanding cases concern 249 villagers who were allegedly abducted from the village of Toror in the Nuba Mountains in 1995 by the armed forces of the Government of the Sudan. It is suspected that the villagers have been taken to one of the Government-controlled "peace camps".
353. In response to allegations received from the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Mr. Gáspár Biró, the Advisory Council for Human Rights of the Government of the Sudan released a report entitled "Publication of the results of the investigation carried out by the Judicial Commission about the Juba event of 1992". The Working Group welcomed the release of this report, which provides the findings of the Judicial Commission established to investigate the events that occurred in Juba in 1992 in which it is alleged that over 290 soldiers, police officers, prison guards, paramilitary forces attached to the Department of Wildlife and prominent civilians were arrested after the Government regained control of the town in June 1992. Most have disappeared and it is believed that the majority were summarily killed. The Working Group shares the view of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, who stated in his interim report to the General Assembly (A/52/510) that the report does not address the question of the treatment of the detainees during detention and investigation nor does it address in a convincing manner allegations of extrajudicial and summary killings and summary executions. The Working Group would also note that the report fails to provide information to the families on the location of the bodies for those who were reported to have been executed following trial, or for those who were reported to have been killed in the attacks against Juba.
354. The Government also submitted to the Working Group the "Final report on the work of the Special Committee to Investigate Cases of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance during the period from February 1996 to July 1997". Based upon its investigations in the field and personal interviews with 36 citizens who had allegedly disappeared in southern Kordofan, which were detailed in the Committee's first report dated 15 August 1996, the Committee reported that it had obtained the addresses of about 180 alleged victims of enforced or involuntary disappearance in southern Kordofan. It further reported that the other alleged victims were said to have travelled, voluntarily and of their own free will, to various other Sudanese provinces in search of employment and stability. Four them were reported to have died. In the light of the testimonies and statements of those citizens and the statements of other persons interviewed, the Committee found that none of them had been abducted by the armed forces or government agencies.
355. The Working Group informed the Government of the Sudan that it had decided that the information contained in the report of the Special Committee is insufficient to consider the cases clarified under the methods of work of the Working Group because more detailed information needs to be provided, such as the current address of the alleged victim or a death certificate in those cases where the individual is reported to have died.
356. The Working Group wishes to thank the Government of the Sudan for submitting to it the final report of the Special Committee of Investigation. It reminds the Government, however, of its obligation under article 13 of the Declaration to conduct impartial and effective investigations into alleged cases of disappearances until the fate and whereabouts of the victims are established beyond a reasonable doubt. It also reminds the Government that under article 14 the perpetrators should be brought to justice, and that all victims of acts of enforced disappearance and their family shall obtain redress and shall have the right to adequate compensation in accordance with article 19.[back to the contents]
Syrian Arab Republic
357. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. During the same period, the Working Group clarified two cases on the basis of information provided by the Government on which no objections had been received from the source within a period of six months; in one case it was reported that the person was a medical doctor who was currently pursuing specialized studies in ophthalmology and was working for the Syrian Ministry of Health in Hama; in the other case the Government reported that the person had been detained for evading military service, but released under the terms of a presidential amnesty.
358. Of the 35 cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group, 26 have been clarified. Among the nine outstanding cases, a substantial number allegedly occurred throughout the country in the early to mid-1980s. Some of the persons concerned were allegedly members of terrorist groups; others were reportedly members of the military or civilians.
359. During the period under review, concern was expressed to the Working Group that the fate of those who have disappeared in Lebanon has still not been determined nor the perpetrators brought to justice. It was further alleged that both Lebanese citizens and stateless Palestinians continue to disappear in Lebanon, taken into custody there by Syrian security forces and then transferred to and detained in the Syrian Arab Republic. Allegedly, the Government of Lebanon not only acquiesces to such activities by the Government of Syria, but sometimes also collaborates with Syrian forces in carrying out disappearances, in violation of article 2 (1) of the Declaration.
360. During the period under review, the Government provided information on three individual cases, two of which were subsequently clarified. In the third case the Government reported that the person concerned had died in prison. In this case, the Working Group has requested a copy of the death certificate. The Government also provided information on one case of disappearance which reportedly occurred in Lebanon and in which Syrian forces were implicated. In this connection, the Government stated that its forces were not engaged in "police work or arrests of citizens" in Lebanon. See also the country chapter on Lebanon.[back to the contents]
361. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted two newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of Tajikistan, both of which reportedly occurred in 1997 and were sent under the urgent action procedure. During the same period, the Working Group clarified one of these cases when the source reported that the person concerned had been released. The two cases concerned brothers of Badakhshani ethnic origin who reportedly ran a business in the city of Khusan. One of the brothers, who remains disappeared, is said to have been a member of the last parliament of the Soviet Union.
362. The six cases of disappearance previously reported to the Working Group were alleged to have occurred between late 1992 and July 1993 in the context of the escalating civil war when pro-Government forces took over the capital of Dushanbe.
363. Although several reminders have been sent, no information has ever been received by the Working Group from the Government. The Working Group is, therefore, still unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons.[back to the contents]
364. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Togo. Six of the 10 outstanding cases concern persons who were reportedly detained in 1994 by members of the armed forces at Adetikope as they were on their way to Lomé to visit two relatives of the Secretary-General of the Togolese Drivers' Trade Union, who had reportedly been injured in a car accident. One other case concerned a civil servant who was reportedly the adviser to the President of the High Council of the Republic between 1991 and 1993 and who is said to have been abducted from his car in the Lomé suburb of Aguényié and taken to an unknown destination by three men in a minibus, followed by a military vehicle. The other victims were a man arrested by the police and taken to the Central Commissariat in Lomé, from where he disappeared a few days later; a farmer abducted from his home by armed men and taken to an unknown destination; and a businessman abducted from his home by five men in military fatigues.
365. During the period under review, no new information was received from the Government with regard to the outstanding cases. The Working Group, therefore, is unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons.[back to the contents]
366. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted eight newly reported cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances to the Government of Turkey, all of which were sent under the urgent action procedure; two of the cases reportedly occurred in 1997. During the same period, the Working Group clarified two cases on the basis of the information provided by the Government in which it was reported that the persons concerned had been released from custody. One other case was clarified by the source, who informed the Group that the missing person was in prison.
367. Since the creation of the mandate, 153 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances have been reported to the Working Group, of which 70 have been clarified. The majority of these cases reportedly occurred in south-east Turkey, in areas where a state of emergency was in force. While in 1994 the Working Group transmitted 72 newly reported cases, the number dropped down to 17 in 1995, to 12 in 1996 and to 9 in 1997. Although these figures show that the peak of alleged cases of disappearances occurred in 1994 and that there has been a decrease in their number, disappearances still continue to occur in Turkey. The Working Group also received allegations of disappearances imputed to insurgent groups. However, in accordance with the definition of disappearances in the preamble to the Declaration, the Group does not consider such cases.
368. Victims of the newly reported cases were all Kurds, and included eight males and a female. The youngest was 17 years old, and the eldest was aged 73. All the new cases took place in Diyarbakir, south-east Turkey, which is a region under a state of emergency. In six of these cases, those allegedly responsible were plain-clothes police officers. In two other cases, the alleged perpetrators were said to be members of the Anti-Terror Branch.
369. According to the information received during the period under review, on 6 March 1997, the Turkish Parliament adopted a law reducing the detention period for security detainees involved in collective crimes in areas under the state of emergency from 30 to 10 days, and from 15 to 7 days elsewhere. The law also reduced the period of detention for collective crimes not under the jurisdiction of State security courts from 8 to 7 days. Under the new law, however, detainees only have a right to legal counsel after 4 days of detention. Although many non-governmental organizations have welcomed this change in the law, scepticism exists as to whether the law will be implemented in practice. The Working Group was also informed that the state of emergency was lifted in the provinces of Batmar, Bitlis and Bingol in October l997.
370. The existence of a state of emergency is said to continue to be a major obstacle to the implementation of the Declaration, as it has reportedly led to the excessive concentration of power in the hands of the authorities. Impunity is said to be another contributing factor in the continuation of violations of human rights in Turkey. Reportedly, although members of the security forces are said to be responsible for most cases of enforced disappearances, they are said never to be brought to trial or prosecuted for these acts. It is further alleged that one of the obstacles to prosecuting police officers, particularly in the provinces under a state of emergency decree, is the Temporary Law on the Procedure for Investigation of Civil Servants, which dates from 1913. It is said that according to this law, the decision to prosecute members of the security forces for acts committed in the course of their duties is not in the competence of the prosecutor, but of local administrative councils, which are made up of civil servants under the influence of the regional or provincial governor, who is also the head of the security forces.
371. During the period under review, the Government of Turkey invited the Working Group to visit the country, in response to the Group's request for a visit made on 21 July 1995. It was proposed that the visit take place in the fourth quarter of 1997. Unfortunately, it was not possible to find a mutually convenient date which would have allowed the Working Group to undertake a mission and report to the present session of the Commission on Human Rights. The Group looks forward to carrying out the mission during 1998.
372. The Government provided replies to eight individual cases. In one case the Government acknowledged the detention of the subject and informed the Group that he was being held at Diyarbakir E-Type prison. The source later reported that subject had been released. In seven other cases, the Government informed the Working Group that none of the subjects were taken into custody and that they had no record with the police. However, investigations into their cases were under way.
373. The Government also provided replies of a more general nature. On 10 December 1996, a copy of a press statement by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs was transmitted to the Working Group informing it that the Government had taken a series of measures in order to eliminate human rights violations. These measures included a range of reforms in the judiciary, such as the reduction of the detention period. The statement also referred to the fact that the Ministry of the Interior had issued a circular instructing police stations to conform strictly to all relevant national legislation and to all international commitments in the field of human rights. According to this reply, a Special Bureau to Investigate Allegations Concerning Missing Persons had also been put in place. Detailed information about the findings of this Bureau was provided by letter dated 20 December 1997.
374. The Government further informed the Working Group that the Turkish Grand National Assembly had adopted a draft law included in the Human Rights Reform Package of Turkey. According to the Government, the law introduced major reductions in the detention period, in conformity with European practices. The Government also expressed its will to strengthen the activities of the Missing Persons Bureau. A plan to establish a committee to monitor the implementation of all these measures and to bring proposals to the Government was being developed.
375. Detailed information on the functioning of the Missing Persons Bureau was also provided. According to the Government, in order to facilitate investigations and receive applications, the Bureau is open 24 hours a day. In addition, a mobile centre for the investigation of disappeared persons was established within the bureau. The activities of this mobile centre are carried out in a bus designed specifically for the speedy processing of applications. An intensive public information campaign has been carried out in order to make the Bureau and the mobile centre widely known. As of 28 April 1997, 106 applications concerning alleged disappearances had been made to the Bureau and the mobile centre.
376. The Government of Turkey provided information concerning terrorist activities carried out by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). The Government also responded to the Working Group's request for information on compensation. This information is contained in chapter I.F on compensation.
377. The Working Group wishes to express its appreciation to the Government of Turkey for its continued cooperation, for all the information which it has provided during the period under review and for its invitation to visit the country. Unfortunately, no mutually convenient date for the mission could be found in 1997. It expresses its hope that the mission can be carried out in the near future.
378. While taking into account recent legislation which reduced the period of administrative detention and the lifting of the state of emergency in a number of provinces, the Working Group nevertheless considers the state of emergency in the remaining provinces to be one of the causes for the continuing occurrence of enforced disappearances. Since impunity is another root cause of the practice, it reminds the Government of its obligation under article 14 of the Declaration to bring to justice all persons presumed responsible for an act of enforced disappearance.[back to the contents]
379. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Uganda.
380. All of the 20 reported cases of disappearance occurred between 1981 and 1985, i.e. before the present Government took office. The reported arrests or abductions occurred throughout the country and in one case the person was allegedly abducted while in exile in Kenya and taken to Kampala. One case concerned the 18-year-old daughter of an opposition member of the Ugandan Parliament. The arrests are said to have been made by policemen, soldiers or officials of the National Security Agency.
381. During the period under review, no new information was received from the Government with regard to the outstanding cases. The Group is, therefore, still unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons.[back to the contents]
382. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted, for the first time, three cases of alleged disappearance to the Government of Ukraine. The disappearances reportedly occurred in 1995 and concern two brothers and a friend who are said to have been arrested in Simpherolol, Crimea, by members of the security forces.
383. During the same period, the Government of Ukraine informed the Working Group that the Procurator's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea had undertaken an investigation into the subjects' whereabouts. Witnesses, close relatives, neighbours and acquaintances had been questioned and further investigations conducted, however, to no avail.[back to the contents]
United Arab Emirates
384. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted, for the first time, one case of alleged disappearance to the Government of the United Arab Emirates. The disappearance allegedly occurred in 1996 and concerns a university professor of Egyptian nationality who was reportedly seconded from Assyat University in Egypt to Agman University in the United Arab Emirates, and who is said to have disappeared shortly after returning to the United Arab Emirates from visiting his family in Cairo. He is said to be a well-known intellectual and human rights activist.
385. To date no response has been received from the Government of the United Arab Emirates. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the missing person.[back to the contents]
386. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Uruguay. At the same time, the Working Group deleted five cases from the files of Uruguay since it was determined that the disappearances had actually occurred in Argentina.
387. The majority of the 31 cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group occurred between the years 1975 and 1978 under the military Government, in the context of its fight against alleged subversion. It should be noted that the Working Group has received no reports of disappearances in Uruguay after 1982.
388. During the period under review, the Government of Uruguay provided information on 10 individual pending cases in the Working Group's files and on two other cases which were not registered with the Group. In three cases it enclosed an authenticated copy of the settlement agreed to by the families of the missing persons and the State of Uruguay, which provided for compensation to be paid to individuals for the "damages, injury and mental suffering experienced as a result of acts committed by State officials under the de facto government". In one other case the Government reported that the proceedings instituted against the State in connection with the person's disappearance had not yet come to an end and were with the appeals court; in another case, the court had accepted the State's plea of prescription. In five other cases the Government reported that in accordance with information received from the Government of Argentina, the persons concerned had in fact disappeared in Argentina and not in Uruguay. In all cases the Government provided extensive supporting evidence.
389. The Government also responded to the Working Group's letter concerning compensation, as well as to an additional request from the Working Group concerning the issue of compensation. This information is reflected in chapter I.F on compensation.
390. At its fifty-third session, the Working Group met with representatives of the Government of Uruguay and engaged in an exchange of views with regard to the cases which remain pending and the issue of compensation.[back to the contents]
391. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Uzbekistan.
392. Two of the outstanding cases of disappearance concern an Islamic religious leader and his assistant who were reportedly detained in August 1995 by the National Security Service in Tashkent as they were waiting to board an international flight. The third case concerns the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party, reportedly an unregistered political party, who was allegedly arrested in 1992 by men believed to be government agents.
393. During the period under review, the Government of Uzbekistan provided information on the three outstanding cases, informing the Working Group of the details of the investigations carried out thus far by the authorities into the
subjects' disappearance, and reporting that their search for the persons concerned was continuing and that the families were being kept informed of the findings.[back to the contents]
394. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted to the Government of Venezuela by the Working Group.
395. Of the 10 cases reported to the Working Group, four have been clarified. Three of the six outstanding cases occurred in December 1991 and concern student leaders who had reportedly been intercepted by security forces during a commercial fishing expedition. A fourth case concerned a businessman arrested in February 1991 in Valencia City, Carabobo, by the police. A fifth case concerns a 14-year-old girl who was allegedly abducted in March 1993 following a military raid on her house in the peasant community of 5 de Julio, municipality of Catatumbo, State of Zulia. Another case concerns a person who was allegedly detained in February 1995 in the vicinity of Puerto Ayacucho, State of Amazona, by members of the Navy Infantry, following incidents in which eight Venezuelan soldiers were reportedly ambushed and killed by Colombia guerrillas.
396. During the period under review, the Government of Venezuela replied to the Working Group concerning the six outstanding cases. In one case it reported that the person concerned was living in Colombia, but the exact whereabouts was not specified; in three cases it stated that it had been impossible to determine the whereabouts of the individuals since the shipwreck of their boat, but they may possibly have drowned or died of natural causes; one case was before the Military Court of Maracay, which had been hearing the case against a number of members of the military suspected of involvement in the disappearance; in one other case the investigations undertaken by the Prosecutor's Office and the police had proved so far unsuccessful.[back to the contents]
397. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearances were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Yemen.
398. The majority of the 98 cases transmitted to the Government in the past occurred between January and April 1986 in the context of the fighting which took place during this time between supporters of President Ali Nasser Muhammad and his opponents. The President subsequently fled the country and his opponents took power. In the aftermath of the fighting, several suspected supporters of the former President were reportedly arrested and subsequently disappeared. The persons concerned are said to have been arrested either during the fighting on 13 January 1986 or in the period thereafter, between January and April 1986. The majority of the victims were members of the air force, the army or the security forces, but there were also civilians. Most of them were members of the Yemen Socialist Party. The forces said to be responsible for their arrest include the State security forces, the air force and the people's militia. One other case concerned the President of the Engineers' Union who was also said to be a member of the Central Committee of the Yemen Socialist Party and who reportedly disappeared in August 1994. This case was clarified in 1994 when the person concerned was reported to have been released.
399. During the period under review, the Government replied to the Working Group concerning the outstanding cases. It stated that these disappearances occurred in 1986 in what used to be the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen during the armed conflict. The list is only a fraction of what is estimated to be the number of victims to have been killed or disappeared during this time. The Government further stated that it believed it had a moral duty to the families of these victims and had decided to pay them in full the salaries of their missing loved ones. This process continues and the Government is seeking the extradition of those responsible, who are currently being tried in absentia.
400. Representatives of the Government met with the Working Group at its fifty-second session. They reiterated the Government's desire to cooperate with the Group. The Government said that it believed that most of these people had probably been executed, but they could not identify where they were buried. They stressed that this issue was very difficult for the families, as the latter hoped their missing relatives were still alive. The Government had passed a law which proclaimed any person who disappeared in those circumstances to be a martyr and entitled to his full salary. The Government asked the Working Group for advice on how to trace disappeared persons.
401. By note verbale dated 16 October 1997, the Government of Yemen invited the Working Group to visit the country. The Working Group has accepted the invitation and a mutually convenient date is being sought.[back to the contents]
402. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted, for the first time, one case of disappearance to the Palestinian Authority, which reportedly occurred in 1997 and was sent under the urgent action procedure. The case concerns a real estate agent and father of five children who reportedly disappeared following his arrest by members of the Palestinian military intelligence in Ramallah.
403. To date, no response has been received from the Palestinian Authority. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the missing person.[back to the contents]
III. COUNTRIES IN WHICH ALL REPORTED CASES OF DISAPPEARANCE HAVE BEEN CLARIFIED
404. During the period under review, the Working Group clarified the one case of disappearance transmitted to the Government of the Gambia, when the source reported that the person concerned had been released from detention. The case concerns a member of the now dissolved House of Representatives of the Gambia who was arrested in 1995 by the police and who subsequently disappeared. According to the source, he had been held for nearly two years in various prisons, without being charged or tried.[back to the contents]
405. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Saudi Arabia. During the same period, the Group clarified the one case of disappearance on the basis of information submitted by the Government in which it reported that the person concerned had been released from detention, and on which no observations had been received from the source during the period of six months. This case was transmitted in 1992 and concerned a businessman who was allegedly arrested in Amman in 1991 by Jordanian security forces, and was later handed over to the Saudi Arabian authorities.[back to the contents]
406. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted, for the first time, one case to the Government of Zambia, which reportedly occurred in 1997 and was sent under the urgent action procedure. The case concerned a Rwandan citizen who was reportedly a former Minister of Justice and Commerce and who is said to have been living in Zambia since 1995. During the same period, the Group clarified this case when the source reported that the subject had been found in Rwanda, where she is detained in the Central prison of Kigali.
407. No reply was received from the Government of Zambia with regard to this case.[back to the contents]
IV. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
408. The present report, the eighteenth of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, is submitted to the Commission on Human Rights during "1998 - Human Rights Year", i.e. 50 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and five years after the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights. "Human Rights Year" is an occasion, on the one hand, to celebrate the achievements of the United Nations in the field of human rights during this half century and, on the other hand, to critically assess the present situation of human rights, to evaluate the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and to develop a human rights agenda for the future. Such critical assessment must include the various human rights mechanisms established by the United Nations. The Working Group takes the opportunity of presenting this report to include some reflections on the phenomenon of enforced disappearances and its own role in combating this gross and particularly heinous violation of human rights and in relieving the suffering of the victims and their families.
409. Enforced disappearances are a recent phenomenon which emerged during the 1960s and early 1970s as a systematic practice of repression in a number of countries in Latin America under military rule. Unfortunately, the practice of disappearances soon became a rapidly increasing phenomenon in other regions as well, with Iraq, Sri Lanka and the countries of the former Yugoslavia being the countries in which the highest number of cases were reported to the Working Group to have occurred. Most of the more recent cases occurred in the context of internal armed conflicts, ethnic and religious tensions and other forms of internal disturbances.
410. The establishment of thematic mechanisms by the Commission on Human Rights with the task of investigating gross violations of human rights in all countries of the world and of publicly reporting on their findings undoubtedly constitutes one of the major achievements of the United Nations human rights programme. The Working Group was the first such mechanism created, and it has played a pioneering role as a channel of communication between victims, families and non-governmental organizations on the one hand, and Governments on the other. Since its establishment in 1980, the Working Group has transmitted a total of 47,758 cases to 76 Governments. Out of these, only 2,801 cases could be clarified (1,822 by Governments and 979 by non-governmental sources); 17 cases have been discontinued. At the date of clarification, 1,681 persons were at liberty, 442 were in detention, and 678 were dead. Although every individual clarification must be seen as a success, the fact that 44,940 of a total of 47,758 cases are still outstanding is not a very encouraging result.
411. If one analyses the reasons for this high percentage of unresolved cases, one finds that many of these disappearances, particularly in Latin America, date back to the 1970s or early 1980s; most of the victims have probably been dead for a long time, but it is extremely difficult to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the exact fate and whereabouts of the victims. According to the Working Group's methods of work, such proof is, however, a precondition for considering the case clarified.
412. The Working Group, therefore, in recent years has intensified its efforts to mediate between the families of missing persons and the respective Governments to find a solution to these old cases which might be acceptable to all sides concerned. Although many of these Governments in fact have changed, and themselves show a keen interest in clarifying the old cases, the families and non-governmental organizations often accuse them of not taking sufficient measures to investigate these cases and to bring the perpetrators to justice - measures to which these Governments, even if not responsible for the acts of disappearance as such, are obliged to take under the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. On the other hand, these Governments often enacted amnesty laws which legally prevent them from prosecuting the alleged perpetrators, a course of action which clearly is not in conformity with article 18 of the Declaration. Nevertheless, the Working Group offers its assistance in those cases to find a solution by means of a judicial declaration of presumption of death, with the concurrence of the families, and the payment of adequate compensation to them. A number of countries have made considerable efforts in this respect as is shown in the chapter in the present report on compensation, presumption of death and exhumation.
413. A good example of this approach is Brazil, which in 1995 adopted a law concerning the recognition as dead of persons missing in connection with their political activities in the period 1961-1979. This law provides that the relatives of such missing persons are entitled to obtain death certificates and to receive compensation from the State amounting to at least US$ 100,000 per person. The application of this law led to the result that 49 out of 56 cases which had been reported to the Working Group have already been clarified. Similar efforts are being undertaken by a number of other States, notably Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
414. Another method of clarifying old cases is the exhumation and identification of mortal remains from mass graves and other places where victims of enforced disappearance had been clandestinely buried. The Government of Chile informed the Working Group that as of August 1997, remains had been exhumed allowing the identification of 231 persons, notwithstanding the fact that these persons were killed more than 20 years ago. The Working Group recommends to all States with a considerable number of outstanding cases to develop comprehensive programmes of forensic activities and to compensate the families of deceased victims of enforced disappearance.
415. Monetary compensation to the victims and/or their families is, however, only one possibility of providing redress. As the Working Group stresses in its general comments on article 19 of the Declaration (see paras. 68-75 above), the right to obtain redress for acts of enforced disappearance includes other forms of redress, such as medical, psychological, legal and social rehabilitation; restoration of personal liberty, employment and property; and other forms of restitution, satisfaction and reparation which may remove the consequences of the enforced disappearance.
416. The Working Group wishes to stress once again that impunity is one of the root causes of enforced disappearances, and at the same time one of the major obstacles to clarifying past cases. That is why the Declaration obliges States to make all acts of enforced disappearance offences under domestic criminal law, to promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate any allegation of enforced disappearance and to bring the perpetrators to justice. In addition, article 18 explicitly states that perpetrators of enforced disappearance shall not benefit from any special amnesty law or similar measures that might have the effect of exempting them from any criminal proceedings or sanction. In some States with a high number of outstanding cases, families of missing persons demand as a precondition for a lasting solution to this problem, that Governments comply with their obligations under the Declaration to carry out thorough investigations, to inform the public of the outcome of such investigations, and to punish the perpetrators. Sometimes, far-reaching amnesty laws, notably in Peru and Argentina, prevent such investigations and prosecutions from taking place. As a consequence, the conflict between the families and the respective Government often continues over many years, and the Working Group is not in a position to clarify such cases. Therefore, it strongly recommends to Governments to comply with their obligations under the Declaration not to impede investigations by means of enacting amnesty laws and to stop the vicious cycle of impunity.
417. In some countries the Working Group was unable to achieve any progress in clarifying cases because of the non-cooperation of the respective Governments. The Governments of Burkina Faso, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles and Tajikistan have never replied to any requests for information from the Working Group. The Government of Iraq, which is responsible for the highest number of cases of enforced disappearance reported to the Working Group, has not taken any meaningful measures to prevent, terminate and investigate acts of enforced disappearance and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The number of outstanding cases is, therefore, steadily increasing and amounts at present to not less than 16,366. The Working Group recommends that the Commission on Human Rights take appropriate action in relation to these countries.
418. As important as clarifying past cases of enforced disappearance is that Governments take effective legislative, administrative and judicial measures aimed at preventing the occurrence of such acts in the future. In the opinion of the Working Group, this is an area where most Governments failed to comply with their obligations under the Declaration. Although article 4 applies to all States, i.e. not only to those in which enforced disappearances actually take place, almost no Government has amended its criminal laws in order to ensure that acts of enforced disappearance as such are offences punishable by appropriate penalties. The enactment and effective implementation of such laws would be a major step towards terminating the widespread culture of impunity and thereby prevent acts of enforced disappearance. In addition, the Working Group stressed in its general comments on article 10 (E/CN.4/1997/34, paras. 23-30) that this provision combines three obligations which, if observed, would effectively prevent enforced disappearances: recognized place of detention, limits of administrative or pre-trial detention and prompt judicial intervention. Other important legal safeguards to prevent enforced disappearances and similar gross violations of human rights are the strict observance of the right of all detainees to have prompt access to their families, to lawyers and doctors of their own choice; the maintenance of official up-to-date registers of all persons deprived of their liberty; regular inspection of all places of detention by independent bodies; and proper human rights training of all prison and law enforcement personnel and members of the armed forces.
419. The observance of these rights does not seem to put an excessive burden on States, even in emergency situations. Most of these rights seem self-evident, at least in States that are based on minimum standards of the rule of law. Moreover, the implementation of these rights does not require high financial investments, and in any case is much cheaper than all efforts to investigate and clarify past cases of enforced disappearance, to bring the perpetrators to justice, to exhume mortal remains and to pay adequate compensation to the victims and their families. The Working Group, therefore, uses the opportunity of "Human Rights Year" to appeal once again to all Governments to take effective measures to prevent the crime of enforced disappearance. As the Working Group stated above, this crime was unknown until some 30 years ago. It is, therefore, not impossible, if the political will of Governments exists, that the phenomenon of enforced disappearances will disappear from history as quickly as it emerged.[back to the contents]
V. ADOPTION OF THE REPORT
420. At the last meeting of its fifty-third session, on 21 November 1997, the present report was adopted by the members of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances:
Ivan Tosevski (the former Yugoslav Chairman-Rapporteur Republic of Macedonia)
Agha Hilaly (Pakistan)
Jonas K. D. Foli (Ghana)
Diego Garcia-Sayán (Peru)
Manfred Nowak (Austria)[back to the contents]
Annex I DECISIONS ON INDIVIDUAL CASES TAKEN BY THE WORKING GROUP DURING 1997
DECISIONS ON INDIVIDUAL CASES TAKEN BY THE WORKING GROUP DURING 1997
|Countries||Cases which allegedly occurred in 1997||Cases transmitted to the Government during 1997||Clarifications by||Discontinued cases|
|Urgent actions||Normal actions||Government||Non-governmental sources|
|and the Palestinian authority||1||1||-||-||-||-|
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STATISTICAL SUMMARY: CASES OF ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES
TO THE WORKING GROUP BETWEEN 1980 AND 1997 STATISTICAL SUMMARY
Cases of involuntary disappearances reported to the Working Group
between 1980 and 1997
|Countries||Cases transmitted to the Government||Clarifications by||Status of person at date of clarification||Discontinued cases|
|At liberty||In detention||Dead|
|No. of cases||Female||No. of cases||Female|
|Argentina||3 453||772||3 375||749||43||35||49||-||29||-|
|El Salvador||2 661||332||2 270||267||318||73||196||175||20||-|
|Guatemala||3 151||396||2 990||342||82||79||99||5||57||-|
|Iraq||16 496||2 311||16 366||-||107||23||106||3||21||-|
|Peru||3 004||311||2 369||116||252||383||447||85||103||-|
|Sri Lanka||12 208||147||12 144||0||30||34||31||17||