Distr.
GENERAL

E/CN.4/1997/34
13 December 1996


Original: ENGLISH

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Fifty-third session
Item 8 (c) of the provisional agenda

QUESTION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL PERSONS SUBJECTED TO
ANY FORM OF DETENTION OR IMPRISONMENT QUESTION OF
ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES

Report of the Working Group on Enforced or
Involuntary Disappearances


CONTENTS

Introduction

Chapter

I. ACTIVITIES OF THE WORKING GROUP ON ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES IN 1996

A. Meetings and missions of the Working Group
B. Communications
C. Implementation of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
D. Draft international convention on the prevention and punishment of enforced disappearances
E. Special process on missing persons in the territory of the former Yugoslavia

II. INFORMATION CONCERNING ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES REVIEWED BY THE WORKING GROUP

Afghanistan
Algeria
Angola
Argentina
Bangladesh
Bolivia
Brazil
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cameroon
Chad
Chile
China
Colombia
Cyprus
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia
Gambia
Greece
Guatemala
Guinea
Haiti
Honduras
India
Indonesia

[More]


Introduction

1. The present report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1996/30, entitled "Question of enforced disappearances". (1) In addition to the specific tasks entrusted to the Working Group by the Commission in this resolution, the Group has also taken into account other mandates stemming from a number of resolutions adopted by the Commission (2) entrusted to all special rapporteurs and working groups. All these tasks have been given due consideration by the Working Group in the course of 1996; in view of the financial crisis of the United Nations and the page limit imposed on all reports, however, the Working Group decided not to reproduce the content of these resolutions as it has done in the past.

2. In addition to its original mandate, which is to act as a channel of communication between families of disappeared persons and the Governments concerned, with a view to ensuring that sufficiently documented and clearly identified individual cases are investigated and the whereabouts of the disappeared persons clarified, the Working Group has been entrusted by the Commission with various other tasks. In particular, the Working Group is to monitor States' compliance with their obligations deriving from the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. (3) States are under an obligation to take effective measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearance, by making them continuing offences under criminal law and establishing civil liability.

3. As in previous years, the Working Group has continued to apply the urgent action procedure in cases that allegedly occurred in the three months preceding the receipt of the report by the Group. This year the Working Group sent urgent action appeals to Governments in respect of 97 cases. It has also promptly intervened with the Governments of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico on cases in which relatives of missing persons, or other individuals or organizations which have cooperated with the Group, or their legal counsel, are said to have been subjected to intimidation, persecution or other reprisals.

4. The total number of cases being kept under active consideration as they have not yet been clarified now stands at 43,980. The number of countries with outstanding cases of alleged disappearance was 63 in 1996. During the period under review, the Working Group received some 551 new cases of disappearance in 28 countries.

5. As in the past, the present report reflects only communications or cases examined before the last day of the third annual session of the Working Group, which was 22 November 1996. Urgent action cases which may have to be dealt with between that date and the end of the year, as well as communications received from Governments and processed after 22 November 1996, will be reflected in the Working Group's next report.

6. Finally, the Working Group feels obliged to again draw the Commission's attention to the 32-page limit for reports decided by the General Assembly. The Group fully understands the efforts of the United Nations to reduce costs. However, while 32 pages may be a reasonable limit for certain reports, it is certainly not the case for the thematic report of this Working Group, which deals with almost 70 countries, tens of thousands of individual cases and the monitoring of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The Working Group has made and is continuing to make, efforts to reduce the length of its report. It has, for example, reduced the number of pages in its report from 180 in 1993 to 117 last year. The members have also agreed to work without interpretation amongst themselves. Any further reduction, however, could seriously hinder the quality of the Group's work.

7. The Working Group also wishes to express its concern that many of those contributing to and interested in the Group's work were unable to read last year's report since it was not translated. It views this situation with the utmost preoccupation. [back to the contents]

I. ACTIVITIES OF THE WORKING GROUP ON ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES IN 1996

A. Meetings and missions of the Working Group

8. The Working Group held three sessions in 1996. The forty-eighth session was held in New York from 3 to 7 June, and the forty-ninth and fiftieth sessions were held in Geneva from 19 to 23 August and from 13 to 22 November, respectively. During its 1996 sessions, the Working Group met with representatives of the Governments of Egypt, Guatemala, Kuwait, Morocco, the Sudan and Uruguay, as well as with the National Commission for Human Rights of Mexico.

9. The Group also met with representatives of human rights organizations, associations of relatives of missing persons and families or witnesses directly concerned with reports of enforced disappearances.

10. As in previous years, the Working Group examined information on enforced or involuntary disappearances received from both Governments and non-governmental organizations and decided, in accordance with its methods of work, on the transmission of such reports or observations received thereon to the Governments concerned. It also requested Governments to provide complementary information whenever necessary for the clarification of cases.

11. For various reasons the Working Group decided to postpone its visit to Colombia, envisaged for 1996. To date it has received no reply from the Governments of Iraq and Turkey to its letters dated 21 July 1995 requesting a visit. For this reason, no mission took place in 1996. [back to the contents]

B. Communications

12. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 551 new cases of enforced or involuntary disappearance to the Governments concerned, 92 of which were sent under the urgent action procedure. The majority of the newly reported cases, 88 of which allegedly occurred in 1996, relate to Chad, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Many of the other cases received were referred back to the sources as they lacked one or more elements required by the Working Group for their transmission, or because it was not clear whether they fell within the Working Group's mandate; other cases were considered inadmissible within the context of that mandate. During the same period, the Working Group clarified 181 cases.

13. As has been its practice in the past, the Working Group twice reminded the Governments concerned of reports of disappearances transmitted during the previous six months under the urgent action procedure. It also reminded all Governments of the total number of outstanding cases remaining before it and, when requested, retransmitted the summaries of those cases or the diskettes containing those summaries to them. Following each of its three sessions, the Working Group informed Governments of decisions it had made with respect to cases of disappearance in their countries. It also transmitted to the Governments concerned the allegations which it had received from non-governmental organizations concerning, in particular, obstacles to the implementation of the Declaration.

14. The Working Group has continued to attach great importance to its contacts with non-governmental organizations and relatives of missing persons, and maintained close contact with sources of information throughout the year, informing them on a regular basis of the state of its investigation into cases of concern to them, as well as the replies it had received from Governments in this respect.

15. As in previous years, the Working Group received reports and expressions of concern from non-governmental organizations, associations of relatives of disappeared persons and individuals about the safety of persons actively engaged in the search for missing persons, in reporting cases of disappearance or in the investigation of cases. In some countries, the mere fact of reporting a disappearance entailed serious risk to the life or security of the person making the report or to his or her family members. In addition, individuals, relatives of missing persons and members of human rights organizations were frequently harassed and threatened with death for reporting cases of human rights violations or investigating such cases.

16. Taking into account the ever-increasing number of United Nations field operations with human rights components, and the field offices of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Working Group has continued this year to address itself to these offices in an effort to take advantage of their unique position on the ground in order to improve its information flow with regard to disappearances. Information in this respect is reflected in the appropriate country chapters. [back to the contents]

C. Implementation of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

17. The Declaration refers to the right to a prompt and effective judicial remedy, as well as unhampered access of national authorities to all places of detention, the right to habeas corpus, the maintenance of centralized registers of persons deprived of their liberty, the duty to investigate fully all alleged cases of disappearance, the duty to try alleged perpetrators of disappearance before ordinary (not military) courts, the exemption of the criminal offence of acts of enforced disappearance from statutes of limitations, special amnesty laws and similar measures leading to impunity. The Working Group continued to remind the Governments of these obligations not only in the context of clarifying individual cases, but also by taking action of a more general nature. During the year under review, it drew the attention of Governments and non-governmental organizations to the general or specific aspects of the Declaration; it discussed with representatives of Governments and non-governmental organizations how to solve specific problems in the light of the Declaration and how to overcome obstacles to its implementation.

18. In paragraph 29 of its resolution 1996/30 on the question of enforced disappearances, the Commission on Human Rights requested the Secretary-General to keep the Commission and the Working Group informed of the steps he takes for the widespread dissemination and promotion of the Declaration and to compile observations, if any, from Governments on the possible measures they have taken, where appropriate, to take the Declaration into account.

19. The Working Group appreciates the efforts of the Secretary-General to disseminate the Declaration, in particular by distributing Fact Sheet No. 6 and a booklet on the Declaration, as well as by making the text of the Declaration available on the Internet. The note by the Secretary-General on this subject submitted to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-third session is contained in document E/CN.4/1997/104.

20. Based on its experience of dealing with individual cases, the Working Group also continues to issue country-specific observations, thereby drawing the attention of the Governments concerned to the relevant provisions of the Declaration. These country-specific observations have been prepared on all countries with more than 50 alleged cases of disappearance or where more than 5 cases were reported during the period under review. All country-specific observations are to be found at the end of the respective country sections in chapter II of the present report.

21. With a view to focusing the attention of Governments more effectively on the relevant obligations deriving from the Declaration, the Working Group decided, at its fiftieth session, to adopt the following general comments on those provisions of the Declaration that might need further explanation in the light of the experience of the Working Group in its communications with Governments.

General comments on article 10 of the Declaration

22. Article 10 of the Declaration is one of the most practical and valuable tools for ensuring compliance by States with their general commitment not to practise, permit or tolerate enforced disappearances (art. 2) and to take effective legislative, administrative and judicial measures to prevent and terminate such acts (art. 3).

23. One important legislative, administrative and judicial measure is that contained in article 10, paragraph 1, which stipulates that "any person deprived of liberty shall be held in an officially recognized place of detention and, in conformity with national law, be brought before a judicial authority promptly after detention". 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 judicial intervention.

24. The first commitment is that the person "deprived of liberty be held in an officially recognized place of detention". This provision requires that such places must be official - whether they be police, military or other premises - and in all cases clearly identifiable and recognized as such. Under no circumstances, including states of war or public emergency, can any State interests be invoked to justify or legitimize secret centres or places of detention which, by definition, would violate the Declaration, without exception.

25. This first commitment is reinforced by the provisions contained in paragraphs 2 and 3 of article 10.

26. Paragraph 2 provides that information on the place of detention of such persons "shall be made promptly available to their family members, their counsel or to any other persons having a legitimate interest in the information unless a wish to the contrary has been manifested by the persons concerned". It is therefore not enough for the detention to take place in an officially recognized place; information on it must be made available to the persons mentioned in that paragraph. Accordingly, both the lack of such information and any impediments to access to it must be considered violations of the Declaration.

27. Paragraph 3 refers to the highly important commitment of maintaining up-to-date registers of all persons deprived of liberty and of making the information contained in those registers available to the persons mentioned in paragraph 2 and to any other authority entitled to it under national or international law, including the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The Group has a mandate to clarify the fate and whereabouts of disappeared persons and to monitor States' compliance with the Declaration. Emphasis is given to the principle that the information should not only exist, but must be available to a range of persons extending far beyond family members. The minimum requirement for such information is the up-to-date register in every centre or place of detention, which means that complying formally with this commitment by keeping some sort of record can never be sufficient; each register must be continuously updated so that the information that it contains covers all persons being held in the relevant centre or place of detention. Anything else would be a violation of the Declaration. It is also stipulated that each State shall take steps to maintain centralized registers. Such registers help in tracing the whereabouts of an individual who may have been deprived of liberty, since precise information is not always available on where such a person may have been taken, and this can be clarified with an up-to-date centralized register. As the complex situation in some countries makes it difficult to envisage the immediate establishment of a centralized register, the minimum commitment in this regard is "to take steps" in that direction; these must of course be effective and gradually produce results. Not "to take steps" would be a violation of the Declaration.

28. The second commitment is to ensure that any person deprived of liberty is "brought before a judicial authority", which complements the preceding provision on the place of detention and availability of information. It is not enough for the place of detention to be an "officially recognized place of detention" or for accurate information to be available on the place where the individual is being held. The Declaration takes account of a more substantive aspect of detention in stipulating that administrative or pre-trial detention must be only temporary, as the person deprived of liberty must be "brought before a judicial authority". This obligation is in addition to those considered above.

29. The third commitment is to ensure that the person in question is brought before a judicial authority "promptly after detention". This underlines the transitional and temporary nature of administrative or pre-trial detention which, per se, is not a violation of international law or of the Declaration unless it is unduly prolonged and the detained person is not brought "promptly" before a judicial authority. Consequently, any detention which is prolonged unreasonably or where the detainee is not charged so that he can be brought before a court is a violation of the Declaration. The fact that this provision does not set a time-limit for administrative detention should not be interpreted as allowing for unlimited laxity, since the principles of reasonableness and proportionality and the very spirit of the provision dictate that the period in question should be as brief as possible, i.e., not more than a few days, as this is the only conceivable interpretation of "promptly after detention".

30. The Declaration provides for no exceptions to observance of the commitments contained in article 10. Consequently, not even the existence of a state of emergency can justify non-observance. Moreover, all of the commitments laid down must be observed as minimum conditions if the provisions of this article of the Declaration are to be interpreted as having been fulfilled by the State concerned. In this connection, reference is made to the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee with respect to article 9.3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to other relevant United Nations standards concerning administrative detention. [back to the contents]

D. Draft international convention on the prevention and punishment of enforced disappearances

31. The Working Group welcomes the efforts of the Sub-Commission's sessional working group on the administration of justice and the question of compensation to prepare a draft international convention on the prevention and punishment of enforced disappearances. The Working Group wishes to be further informed of the progress made in the drafting work and would welcome being invited to attend relevant meetings of the sessional working group.

32. With respect to the question of monitoring mechanisms raised in the report of the sessional working group on the administration of justice and the question of compensation (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/16, para. 47), the Working Group is of the opinion that a monitoring body would be essential in order to supervise the compliance of States parties. However, in order to avoid a further proliferation of treaty monitoring bodies, the Working Group suggests that this task should either be entrusted to one of the existing treaty monitoring bodies, for example by adopting a further optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. In the latter case, the Working Group would be prepared, in analogy to the double role of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to examine the possibility of continuing to function as a thematic mechanism of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights with respect to all countries of the world where cases of disappearances are alleged to occur and, in addition, to function as a treaty monitoring body with respect to States parties to the future convention on disappearances. [back to the contents]

E. Special process on missing persons in the territory of the former Yugoslavia

33. The expert member of the Working Group in charge of the Special Process on Missing Persons in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, established pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolutions 1994/72, 1995/35 and 1996/71, Mr. Manfred Nowak, continued his activities aimed at determining the fate and whereabouts of many thousands of missing persons in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the period under review the expert concentrated his field activities on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after the entry into force of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

34. With the support of the human rights field operation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and in close cooperation with other institutions in the field, such as the Office of the High Representative, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the expert facilitated, in particular, a programme of excavation of mass graves and exhumation of mortal remains for the purpose of identifying deceased missing persons, returning the remains to the families concerned and, thereby, responding to the right of the families to know the truth about the fate of their loved ones.

35. The activities of Mr. Nowak in 1996 and his analysis of the phenomenon of disappearances in the former Yugoslavia are summarized in his report to the Commission at its present session (E/CN.4/1997/55). [back to the contents]

II. INFORMATION CONCERNING ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES REVIEWED BY THE WORKING GROUP

Afghanistan
36. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Afghanistan.

37. The two outstanding cases concern a Jordanian journalist who reportedly disappeared in Jalalabad, province of Nangarhar, in 1989 while on assignment, and an American citizen of Afghan origin who allegedly disappeared in 1993 when he was on a visit to Afghanistan.

38. Although the Working Group believes that many more cases of disappearance must have occurred in Afghanistan, individual cases have not been brought to the Working Group's attention to allow it, in accordance with its methods of work, to take action.

39. During the period under review, the Government provided information on the two outstanding cases, stating that in one case the person concerned had never been arrested and in the second case, following a lengthy investigation by the security forces, as well as efforts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the subject's name had not been found in the register of any prison. [back to the contents]

Algeria

40. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted three newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of Algeria. During the same period, the Working Group clarified six cases, all on the basis of information provided by the Government on which no observations were received by the source within a period of six months. In five cases the persons concerned had reportedly been killed, and in one case the person had been released from custody after 48 hours.

41. The majority of the 107 reported cases of disappearance occurred between 1993 and 1995. The security forces were alleged to be responsible for all the arrests and subsequent disappearances, which reportedly occurred throughout the country, although mainly in Algiers. A number of the disappeared are reported to have been members or sympathizers of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). One case concerned a British resident who was reportedly detained upon his arrival at the airport in Algiers. Another case concerned a person holding dual Algerian and French citizenship. The victims were from a variety of professions, including medical doctors, journalists, university professors, students, civil servants and farmers.

42. The three newly reported cases allegedly occurred in 1994 and 1995 and concerned a university student and an engineer from Annaba, who were reportedly arrested by military security personnel, and a teacher who was allegedly arrested by the police, taken to the police bunkers in Chateau-neuf in Ben Akoun for interrogation and subsequently disappeared.

43. According to the information received from non-governmental organizations, members of the security forces neither have warrants nor wear uniforms when they carry out arrests. It is reported that in the majority of cases the detainees are not brought before courts and are therefore unaccounted for.

44. During the period under review, the Government provided information on 30 individual cases. In the majority of the cases the Government reported that no arrest warrant had been issued against the person concerned. However, the authorities concerned will continue investigations to determine the fate of the disappeared persons. In nine cases, the Government reported that the persons had been killed, and in four cases that the persons were suspected of having participated in terrorist activities and were wanted by the security forces.

Observations

45. The Working Group wishes to express its appreciation to the Government for the information which it has provided on a number of individual cases. It also wishes to remind the Government of its responsibility under article 10 of the Declaration, that detainees be held in an officially recognized place of detention and be brought before a judicial authority promptly after detention.

46. The Working Group, furthermore, while taking into account the legitimacy of derogating from some human rights commitments, in accordance with international law, during public emergencies, nevertheless wishes to stress that, pursuant to article 7 of the Declaration, no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances. [back to the contents]

Angola

47. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Angola.

48. The four cases which remain pending on the Working Group's books concern four men who were allegedly arrested in 1977 by the Angolan security forces, in particular by DISA (Angolan information and security forces). Two of them were reportedly arrested because they were suspected of supporting UNITA.

49. With regard to the four outstanding cases, during the period under review the Government informed the Working Group that it had done everything in its power to locate all information concerning the people who disappeared in Huambo and Onjiva, but to no avail. The Permanent Representative of Angola to the United Nations Office in Geneva stated that "for the second time, he visited the provinces of Huambo and Kuando Kubango with a view to personally participating in the enquiry conducted by the Angolan authorities into the disappearance of these four persons. The Government stated that the resources available to the Angolan authorities for meeting the thousands of requests to trace those who disappeared as a result of the war were extremely limited. In addition, many bodies had been spontaneously buried during the fighting, which made it impossible to now identify the places of burial and to locate the remains. Consideration should be given to the fact that many Angolans had no identity papers and had died a violent death. Since all possibilities of investigation had been exhausted, the Government expressed the hope that the Working Group would consider the four pending cases clarified."

50. In an effort to explore all means available to try to elucidate these cases, the Working Group wrote to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Angola to inform him of the situation, with the hope that he may be able to be of assistance in shedding light on these cases. At the time of issuing of the present report, no reply had yet been received by the Group. [back to the contents]

Argentina

51. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Argentina. At the same time, the Working Group deleted one case from the Argentine statistics when the case was also found to be in the statistics of Uruguay.

52. In accordance with its prompt intervention procedure, on 2 May 1996 the Working Group sent a fax to the Government of Argentina requesting that it ensure the protection of the basic human rights of six members of a group composed of children of victims of disappearances and other violations, who were reportedly subjected to intimidation by members of the security forces.

53. The vast majority of the 3,461 reported cases of disappearance in Argentina occurred between 1975 and 1978 under the military Government, in the context of its campaign against left-wing guerrillas and their sympathizers.

54. As in the past, a number of non-governmental organizations have continued to address themselves to the Working Group with regard to their ongoing quest to have the fate of the persons who disappeared in Argentina brought to light, in particular demanding that the Argentine State present any documentation and other information in its possession on the human consequences of the so-called war against subversion, and especially the consequences of such operations for persons on whose whereabouts as disappeared persons information had been requested.

55. In this connection, there are a number of cases before the courts about which the Working Group has been amply informed over the past several years. In 1996, the Group was advised that the time allotted for producing evidence had expired. It is alleged that the plaintiffs have been deprived of the opportunity to present evidence that was available at the beginning of the proceedings, because public documents and other essential evidence in proceedings brought against the State in the federal courts have been removed or destroyed. Such information is said to include the entire records of the military junta and administrative documentation on specific individuals who disappeared during the military rule. An extensive collection of documents, reportedly consisting of over 10,000 pages, containing charges of disappearances of thousands of individuals and internal proceedings in that connection under the military government, have reportedly been kept by the Ministry of the Interior, who is said to maintain that these documents are not relevant to the subject of the proceedings. It is claimed that several high-level State officials appear prima facie to be involved in the systematic obstruction of judicial action in these cases and that the plaintiffs have decided to prosecute three ministers of the national executive and three magistrates in this connection.

56. By note verbale dated 22 February 1996, the Government of Argentina informed the Working Group of the action undertaken by the Argentine authorities since 10 December 1983 to trace and establish the identity of children of persons who disappeared in Argentina during the period 1976-1983. It noted, inter alia, that the comprehensive investigation carried out by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP), by the judiciary and by the Office of the Attorney General covered the entire spectrum of disappeared persons, encompassing children who disappeared together with their parents as well as children who were born in captivity. Concurrently, judicial proceedings were instituted in various courts, mainly on the basis of a complaint lodged by the organization "Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo", with the aim of tracing children.

57. The Government further reported that, in 1992, the President of Argentina had established the National Committee for the Right to an Identity, whose aim was to promote the search for disappeared children. The Commission regularly and systematically performed activities in response to requests from the "Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo", or at its own initiative. As at 22 February 1996, 57 children and young people had reportedly been traced.

58. By notes verbale dated 30 April and 2 August 1996, the Government informed the Working Group of action undertaken by the authorities to pursue investigations into cases of disappeared persons. It reported that, on the basis of new information presented to it, the Buenos Aires National Appeals Court for Federal Criminal and Correctional Cases had decided to initiate proceedings in order to determine the fate of three individuals reported to have disappeared in the period 1976-1983.

Observations

59. The Working Group understands the difficulties involved in gathering the information necessary to determine the whereabouts of thousands of victims of enforced disappearances that occurred 20 years ago in Argentina.

60. However, the figure of 3,461 outstanding cases that remain unelucidated is a matter of serious concern. The Working Group points out that, according to the Declaration it is a continuous commitment of the Argentine State to conduct investigations "thoroughly and impartially" (art. 13) "for as long as the fate of the victim of enforced disappearance remains unclarified" (art. 13, para. 6). This commitment does not prevent Argentina from exploring, in conjunction with relatives, additional ways of dealing with outstanding cases, including the possibility of compensation mechanisms. [back to the contents]

Bangladesh

61. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted, for the first time, one case of disappearance to the Government of Bangladesh, which reportedly occurred in 1996 and was sent under the urgent action procedure.

62. This case concerned the organizing secretary of the Hill Women's Federation (an organization which reportedly campaigns for the rights of the indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts), who is said to have been forcibly taken from her home in the Chittagong Hill Tracks by security personnel before the general elections of 12 June 1996. It is believed that her abduction may have been linked to her support of a candidate representing the interests of indigenous people in the parliamentary elections.

63. During the period under review, the Government informed the Working Group that the Home Minister had established a three-member committee to carry out an investigation into this case and submit its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Committee was to investigate the present case as well as suggest legal steps to prevent such incidence in the future. [back to the contents]

Bolivia

64. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Bolivia.

65. The majority of the 48 cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group occurred between 1980 and 1982, in the context of measures taken by the authorities following two military coups d'état. Twenty of these cases have been clarified.

66. Following a request from the Government, the Working Group retransmitted to it a summary of the 28 outstanding cases. In a letter dated 7 September 1996, the Government noted that the cases of disappearance had taken place under dictatorial regimes. Since 1982, successive Bolivian Governments had made efforts to elucidate the cases of disappearance and to punish the perpetrators. As a result, many of those who had committed human rights violations had been imprisoned. The Government also provided information on the 28 outstanding cases. However, the Group considered that it was insufficient to constitute a clarification.

67. The Working Group considers the reply from the Government as a positive step, after many years of no communication. [back to the contents]

Brazil

68. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Brazil. During the same period, the Working Group clarified 42 of the 51 outstanding cases, in which the relatives had recognized as dead their missing family members and for which the Government issued death certificates and informed the Group of the relatives who had received compensation and the amount paid. Most of the 56 cases of disappearance transmitted to the Government by the Group occurred between 1969 and 1975, under the military Government, in particular during the guerrilla warfare in the Aerugo region. The Working Group also retransmitted four cases to the Government, updated with new information from the source, and deleted one case from the Brazil statistics which was found to be duplicated in the Chile country file (see under Chile).

69. In accordance with its prompt intervention procedure, the Working Group sent a fax to the Government of Brazil requesting that it ensure the protection of the basic human rights of a witness to a case of disappearance. The witness was reportedly subjected to death threats following her testimony, which is said to have resulted in the initiation of proceedings against eight police officers.

70. During the period under review, the Government of Brazil informed the Working Group that a bill concerning the recognition as dead of persons missing in connection with their political activities in the period 1961-1979, had been approved by the National Congress and promulgated by the President of the Republic. The Government informed the Group that the Bill provided that the relatives of the above-mentioned persons were entitled to obtain death certificates and to receive compensation from the State. The Government provided a list of names of such persons, their beneficiaries and the amount paid; the list included the names of all the persons whose cases are pending on the Working Group's books. In addition, the Bill provided for the creation of a Special Commission to consider the inclusion of new names in the list of the disappeared recognized as dead. The Government provided a list of names of 156 persons, as at 30 October 1996, who were to receive compensation pursuant to this law by the end of the year.

71. The Government further reported that "simple inclusion of the name in the list of persons recognized as dead by the Bill or recognition by the Special Commission created by the same Bill guarantees by itself the right to request death certificates from the public registration offices, which are the offices responsible for the issuance of these certificates. According to the Ministry of Justice and to the above-mentioned Special Commission, the recognition of the deaths, either those on the initial list or through the Special Commission, is a sufficient condition both to receive compensation and to request the death certificates. Although the right to request death certificates is guaranteed, it is up to each family to decide if it will exercise this right or not. Compensation is due by the State automatically after the recognition of the victim's death. The Special Commission continued its activities with regard to the investigation and localization of corpses and in May 1996 sent a mission to the region where the Aerugo guerrilla warfare took place. Forensic experts have started the work of exhumation".

72. The Government further reported that the payment of compensation was to be by groups of beneficiaries. "By the end of 1996, 159 groups are to be compensated, corresponding to the sum of approximately US$ 18 million. Compensations reportedly have a minimum value of US$ 100,000, but larger amounts may be paid on the basis of the expected lifetime of the victim at the time of his/her disappearance."

73. The Working Group received information from non-governmental organizations. They welcomed the adoption of this Bill and the progress made in relation to compensation for the families of the disappeared. However, concern was expressed that the Bill might set a limiting precedent in relation to other cases, and in particular that the legislation did not provide for a full investigation of the circumstances of these human rights violations, or for those responsible to be identified or brought to justice.

74. Furthermore, with regard to locating the remains of the disappeared, concern was expressed that the legislation placed an unreasonable burden on the families. It was said that relatives were asked to provide indications as to the location of the remains, in order that the Commission might decide on whether there was sufficient evidence to proceed with investigations at those sites. It was argued that it was the State, rather than the victims' relatives, which had access to such information.

Observations

75. The Working Group welcomes the approval of and steps taken for the implementation of the Bill, which entitles the relatives of persons who disappeared between 1961 and 1979 to obtain death certificates and to receive compensation from the Brazilian State. This is a very important step which complies with the commitment of the State that "in the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of enforced disappearance, their dependents are entitled to a compensation" (art. 19 of the Declaration). It is important to recall that, according to the Working Group's methods of work, in situations of presumption of death, the case or cases can be considered clarified only when there is concurrence of the relatives and other interested parties. [back to the contents]

Burkina Faso

76. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Burkina Faso.

77. The three outstanding cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group concern two soldiers and a university professor, all of whom were reportedly arrested in 1989, together with 27 other persons, on charges of having participated in an alleged conspiracy against the Government.

78. Despite several reminders, no information has ever been received by the Working Group from the Government regarding these cases. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons. [back to the contents]

Burundi

79. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted two newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of Burundi, which were sent under the urgent action procedure.

80. The 45 previously reported cases of disappearance in Burundi occurred in Bujumbura between November and December 1991, following attacks against the Government in the capital and the north-western provinces of Cibitoke and Bubanza, as well as in September 1994 in Kamenge and Cibitoke, suburbs of Bujumbura. Thirty-one of the disappeared persons, who were of Hutu origin, were reportedly arrested by members of the security forces, mainly composed of the Tutsi minority. Most of them were later held at Mura and at paratroopers' barracks in Bujumbura, while others allegedly disappeared while in custody at the headquarters of the Gendarmerie's Special Investigations Brigade, in Bujumbura. The more recently reported cases of disappearance allegedly concern Hutus, most of whom had reportedly been assembled and held by members of the security forces on the playing field of the Ecole technique supérieure in Bujumbura, Kamenge suburb. These persons, reportedly suspected of possessing arms, were said to have been arrested and taken away to an unknown destination by members of the armed forces. Another case of disappearance concerned a colonel, responsible for military schools and the Training Centre of the Burundese Army, who was reportedly abducted as he was coming out of the house of one of his colleagues, where he had gone to collect documents before leaving for a seminar abroad.

81. The two newly reported cases of disappearance concern one person who was allegedly arrested by gendarmes at a military check-point in Bujumbura and taken away to an unknown destination. The second case relates to a person reportedly arrested by gendarmes during a control on one of the main roads on the outskirts of the capital and then allegedly detained at the Special Investigations Brigade.

82. During the period under review, confrontations between rebel groups and the Burundese army sharply increased throughout the country. According to information received by the Working Group, after a period of relative calm during the first two months of the year, civil war spread, for the first time, into the southern provinces of the country, which so far had been relatively spared. This outburst of violence and internal strife, which provoked the flight and displacement of some 100,000 people in the south, was later followed by unrest in the centre of the country and renewed fighting in Cibitoke province. In several major incidents in May and June hundreds of civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly, lost their lives in army repraisals against the civilian population following rebel attacks on military positions or industrial targets.

83. In this overall climate of fear and insecurity, allegations of a general nature received by the Working Group indicate a growing number of disappearances and arbitrary arrests, as well as targeted assassinations of intellectuals, provincial governors, merchants and local administrators among the Hutu community.

84. It was against this extremely grim background that the military coup d'état of 25 July 1996 took place, in which President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya was replaced by Major Pierre Buyoya, former President of the Republic of Burundi from 1987 to 1993.

85. Although several reminders have been sent, no information has been received by the Working Group from the Government with regard to these cases of disappearance. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons. [back to the contents]

Cameroon

86. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Cameroon.

87. All six outstanding cases reported to the Working Group occurred in 1992. The cases concerned five youngsters aged 13 to 17, including three brothers, who were reportedly seen being taken into police custody in Bamenda in February 1992 at the time of the arrest of leaders of the Cameroon 88. During the period under review, no information was received by the Working Group from the Government concerning these cases. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared persons. [back to the contents]

Chad

89. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted six newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of Chad. All of them are said to have occurred in 1996 and were sent under the urgent action procedure.

90. Of the six cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group in the past, five occurred in 1991 and one in 1983. The latter was submitted by a relative of the victim and concerned a member of the Democratic National Union who was reportedly taken prisoner in July 1983 in the context of clashes between government troops and opposition forces which took place at Faya-Largeau. The other cases concerned members of the Hadjerai ethnic group who were reportedly arrested on 13 October 1991 by the Chadian security forces. They are said to have been detained following an announcement by the authorities that an attempt by a section of the Chadian armed forces to overthrow President Idriss Deby had been thwarted. Soldiers loyal to the Government are said to have killed and arrested many civilians, solely because they came from the Hadjerai ethnic group.

91. The newly reported cases concern six members of armed opposition groups who are said to have been arrested by the Sudanese security forces at El Geneina in the Sudan, near the Chadian border, and handed over to the Chadian security forces. They are alleged to have then been transferred to N'Djamena by members of the Agence nationale de sécurité.

92. During the period under review, no information was received by the Working Group from the Government concerning these cases. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate of the disappeared persons.

Observations

93. The Working Group is concerned about the recently reported cases of disappearance. It wishes to remind the Government of Chad of its responsibility under article 3 of the Declaration to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearances in any territory under its jurisdiction. [back to the contents]

Chile

94. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Chile. During the same period, the Working Group considered 20 cases clarified, based on information provided by the Government in which it was reported that the body of the persons concerned had been found and identified, as a result of tests carried out by the Forensic Medicine Department of Santiago.

95. The vast majority of the 912 reported cases of disappearance in Chile occurred between 1973 and 1976 under the military Government. They concerned political opponents of the military dictatorship, from different social strata, most of them activists in the Chilean leftist parties. Those responsible for the disappearances were members of the army, the air force, the carabineros and persons acting with the acquiescence of the authorities.

96. During the period under review, the Government of Chile provided information on 27 individual cases. On the basis of this information, the Working Group considered clarified 20 of these cases in which it was reported that the bodies of the persons concerned had been found and identified, as a result of tests carried out by the Forensic Medicine Department of Santiago. With regard to the other seven cases, the Working Group requested the Government of Chile to provide it with additional details on the judicial proceedings, in particular whether the families of the victims had taken part in the investigations, either at the judicial level or the investigation carried out by the National Agency for Compensation and Reconciliation.

97. During the same period, the Government of Uruguay submitted information to the Working Group on a Uruguayan citizen who had disappeared in Chile. It informed the Group that the remains of the person concerned had been found in a common grave in Santiago, identified and repatriated to Uruguay.

98. The Government of Brazil also provided information on a Brazilian citizen who had disappeared in Chile. It reported that the Government of Chile had accepted responsibility for the person's disappearance and was paying compensation to the subject's family. This case was erroneously entered in both the Brazil and Chile country statistics. In accordance with the methods of work of the Working Group, since the case occurred in Chile, it should figure in the Chile country statistics only. Accordingly, at its fiftieth session, the Working Group deleted this case from the country files of Brazil.

Observations

99. The Working Group welcomes the steps taken by the Government of Chile to clarify some of the outstanding cases and continues to follow with interest the efforts to compensate the families "in the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of enforced disappearance" (art. 19 of the Declaration).

100. However, regarding the remaining outstanding cases, the Working Group points out that, in accordance with the Declaration, it is the continuous commitment of the Government of Chile to conduct investigations "thoroughly and impartially" (art. 13) "for as long as the fate of the victim of enforced disappearance remains unclarified" (art. 13, para. 6). [back to the contents]

China

101. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 17 newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of China, six of which reportedly occurred in 1996.

102. Most of the 73 cases of disappearance reported to have occurred in China took place between 1988 and 1990, the majority of which concern Tibetans. Reportedly, some of them disappeared after being arrested for writing or singing national poems or songs. Nineteen of these cases concerned a group of Tibetan monks who had reportedly been arrested in Nepal, interrogated by Chinese officials while in detention and, allegedly, turned over to the Chinese authorities at the Jatopani border. Other victims reportedly were human rights activists involved in pro-democracy activities. Three of the reported cases concerned persons who disappeared after the incident in Beijing in 1989.

103. Sixteen of the newly reported cases of disappearance are said to have occurred in Tibet and concerned eight monks, a church leader, an accountant, a driver, a mechanic, a teacher, two businessmen and one person of unknown profession. In all the cases the Public Security Bureau Police were alleged to be responsible. One of the disappeared persons is said to have been arrested for having participated in a religious ceremony in which a prayer was offered for the long life of the Dalai Lama, and several others were reportedly arrested in Lhasa in 1995 and 1996 for having distributed leaflets containing political messages. Four monks who reportedly disappeared in 1996 were allegedly accused of having produced pro-independence posters and leaflets containing prayers for the health and safety of the child reported as disappeared, recognized by the Dalai Lama on 14 May 1995 as the reincarnation of the late Panchen Lama. Several other persons are reported to have disappeared following celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

104. One other case of disappearance reported during the period under review, is said to have occurred in Beijing and concerns a writer who was reportedly arrested two days after signing a petition entitled "Greeting the United Nations Year of Tolerance, we appeal for the realization of tolerance in China", on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the 1989 Tianamin Square incident.

105. During the course of 1996, the Working Group received information from non-governmental organizations alleging "an emerging pattern of disappearances in Tibet". It is claimed that such disappearances occur as so-called "recurrent detention", where a person is taken into custody for a few days or hours, then released, and the process repeated several days later. Families are reportedly given no information or documentation to indicate that their relatives are detained. Human rights monitors, or those suspected of human rights activities, including those suspected of sending abroad information on the situation in China, are said to be particularly targeted by this practice.

106. It is further reported by non-governmental organizations that the prison system in various parts of the country, Tibet in particular, falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Services (police) rather than that of the Ministry of Justice. This means a single government agency not only investigates and prosecutes, but also retains custody of the accused person after trial - a situation condemned under international standards as being likely to lead to human rights violations.

107. During the period under review, the Government provided information on three cases which concern the disappearance of the boy, Gedhun Nyima, who was reportedly recognized as the reincarnation of the tenth Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama in 1995, and his parents. The Government stated the following: "A few unscrupulous souls have tried to smuggle the boy abroad. They even plotted to do him physical harm and then shift the blame to the Government of China. Fearing for his safety, the boy's parents appealed to the Government for protection. The Government has responded to their request by taking security measures to protect the boy, his parents and other family members. At present they are leading normal lives and enjoying perfect health. Unfortunately, unless we have their consent, we are not at liberty to reveal their place of refuge."

108. The Working Group remains concerned about the whereabouts of the child, Gedhun Nyima, who is the subject of the controversial issue regarding the reincarnation of the late Panchen Lama. In this connection, in accordance with its methods of work, the Working Group would appreciate being provided by the Government of China with documents supporting its statement that he and his parents had appealed to the Government for protection and at present are "leading normal lives and enjoying perfect health".

Observations

109. The Working Group is extremely concerned about the recent increase of disappearances in China, particularly in Tibet, reported to it this year.

110. The Working Group wishes to remind the Government of China of its responsibility under article 3 of the Declaration to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearances in any territory under its jurisdiction. It also wishes to remind the Government of its commitment, under article 14 of the Declaration, "to bring to justice all persons presumed responsible for an act of enforced disappearance". [back to the contents]

Colombia

111. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 23 newly reported cases to the Government of Colombia, 16 of which reportedly occurred in 1996. Of these newly reported cases, 20 were transmitted under the urgent action procedure. During the same period, the Group clarified nine cases on the basis of information previously provided by the Government on which the source has not made any observations during a six-month period.

112. In accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/75, the Working Group sent a "prompt intervention" cable to the Government of Colombia on behalf of persons who had allegedly been subjected to acts of intimidation or harassment. They included members of the Association of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees; relatives of two persons missing after the killing of one member of the family, who had been making inquiries on the whereabouts of the disappeared; and witnesses to the arrest of one person who subsequently disappeared, who had given testimony before the judicial authorities.

113. The majority of the 970 reported cases of disappearance in Colombia have occurred since 1981, in particular in Bogota and regions where the level of violence is highest. The cases include those of persons belonging to civic or human rights groups who had publicly denounced abuses by members of the security forces or paramilitary groups.

114. The newly reported cases transmitted this year occurred in the departments of Antioquia (7), Atlantico, (2), Cesar (7), Cordoba (1), Choco, (1), Meta (1), Santander (3) and the city of Bogota (1). The forces alleged to be responsible were the army (5), the police (2), members of paramilitary groups (11) and unidentified men in civilian clothes believed to be linked to governmental forces (5).

115. During the period under review, a number of non-governmental organizations expressed concern with regard to a bill of constitutional reform, presented to Parliament in April 1996 by a group of senators, establishing that all crimes committed by members of the "fuerza pública" (armed forces and police) should be dealt with under military jurisdiction. That would include not only penal but also disciplinary investigations. If the bill was approved, therefore, all disciplinary proceedings conducted under the current legislation, by the Office of the Procurator General ("Procuraduría General de la Nación") would be transferred to the military jurisdiction. The Government responded to this criticism by saying that the bill, which had not yet been discussed, was an initiative of the Congress and that the Government had not expressed its support for it. It also pointed out that the purpose of the bill was to establish a mechanism by which all penal investigations against members of the "fuerza pública" would be initiated by personnel from the military justice system, who would only decide whether or not the facts in question were related to the service. The bill was by no means intended to assign all such investigations definitively to the military jurisdiction.

116. Non-governmental organizations also expressed concern that during 1995 and 1996 there had been no progress whatsoever regarding the preparation and discussion of a new bill aimed at including "forced disappearance" as a separate crime in the Penal Code. The Government, as well as the Parliament, had allegedly shown a total lack of interest in the subject. Judges and investigators, therefore, continued to consider the cases of disappearance as "kidnapping". In addition, those cases continued to be transferred to military jurisdiction whenever members of the armed forces or the police appeared to be implicated in a disappearance. In connection with this issue, the Government informed the Working Group that discussions were under way on the preparation of a new draft, and that the question of military jurisdiction and due obedience would have to be dealt with in the framework of the reform of the military criminal justice system.

117. The Working Group was also informed by non-governmental organizations of another bill on constitutional reform presented to Parliament by the President of the Republic in August 1996. This bill would suppress many of the limitations imposed by the 1991 Constitution on the possibility of declaring a state of emergency and give additional powers to the Executive while a state of emergency was in force. The bill would also give judicial police functions to the Armed Forces and restrict the possibility of individuals to avail themselves of the writ of protection. According to the sources, all these measures, if approved, would very much undermine the human rights protection system set forth in the Constitution.

118. During the period under review, the Government transmitted information on some 160 outstanding cases. Most of these replies contained details of the legal proceedings carried out by the various authorities dealing with the cases. In nine of them, the whereabouts of the missing persons were indicated.

119. The Government requested the Working Group to consider clarified the cases reportedly transmitted before 1990 on which no additional information had since been received. The Group replied by reminding the Government of its methods of work, in accordance with which cases remained in the Working Group's files for as long as the exact fate and whereabouts of the missing persons had not been established.

120. In a note verbale dated 26 February 1996, the Government transmitted information regarding the implementation of the recommendations made by the various thematic mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights that had visited the country. It mentioned, in particular, that the Government had established a plan for the development of the justice system; that the Office of the Attorney-General had set up a unit to deal exclusively with investigations on human rights cases; that the Constitutional Court had declared unconstitutional the practice of incorporating military personnel in judicial police units; and that the Government intended to present to the Congress, in March 1996, a draft of the new code of military justice. With regard to the functioning of the habeas corpus procedure, the Government explained the reasons why it had been subject to restrictions, and pointed out that it was ready to study any proposal of reform that would allow it to reconcile safeguarding of the right to protection with the risks involved if the restrictions were lifted.

Observations

121. The Working Group expresses its appreciation to the Government of Colombia for its cooperation during the period under review, and understands the difficulties in gathering the information necessary to determine the whereabouts of the victims of enforced disappearances. However, the Working Group is concerned that the evolving situation has generated 23 new cases of disappearances during the period under review. The Working Group wishes to remind the Government of the urgency of taking "effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearance", in accordance with the Declaration (art. 3). It also recalls that it is the continuous commitment of the Government of Colombia to conduct investigations "thoroughly and impartially" (art. 13) "for as long as the fate of the victim of enforced disappearance remains unclarified" (art. 13, para. 6).

122. The Working Group emphasizes the need for compliance with the commitment to try alleged perpetrators of disappearances in ordinary and not military or special courts (art. 16, para. 2) and to ensure "prompt and effective judicial remedy" (art. 9) as a means of preventing disappearances. It is therefore especially important to have full guarantees of the use of habeas corpus. Finally, it urges the Colombian authorities to do everything in their power to ensure the safety of relatives and witnesses (art. 13, para. 3). [back to the contents]

Cyprus

123. As in the past, the Working Group continued to remain available to assist the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP). The Working Group noted that in 1996 the Committee, whose activities are based mainly on the testimony of witnesses and investigations in the field, held two sessions, including 12 meetings at the beginning of the year, before the retirement of the Third Member, Mr. Paul Wurth, in March 1996.

124. The Working Group was informed that, following the submission of the final report of the Third Member and before initiating the procedure to appoint a new Third Member, the Secretary-General of the United Nations had addressed a letter to the two Cypriot leaders on 4 April l996, asking both sides to reach a consensus on four specific points before the end of June 1996, in order to enable the CMP to make expeditious progress.

125. Despite the substantial work carried out by both sides, agreement on the four points has not been reached. The Secretary-General is currently considering the merits of continuing United Nations support to the CMP. [back to the contents]

Dominican Republic

126. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of the Dominican Republic.

127. Of the two outstanding cases, one concerns a person who was arrested in June 1984 in Santo Domingo and subsequently disappeared. The other concerns a university lecturer, who was also a journalist and political activist, who was reportedly detained in May 1994 by members of the army and subsequently taken to a military base.

128. During the period under review, no new information was received from the Government with regard to the outstanding cases. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the persons concerned. [back to the contents]

Ecuador

129. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Ecuador.

130. The majority of the 20 reported cases of disappearance occurred between 1985 and 1992 and concerned persons who were reportedly arrested by members of the Criminal Investigation Service of the National Police. The disappearances occurred in Quito, Guayaquil and Esmeraldas. In three cases the victims were children. Three other cases concerned Peruvian citizens who were reportedly detained in January and February 1995 in the cities of Huaquillas, Loja and Otavalo.

131. During the period under review, the Government requested copies of the outstanding cases, which were sent to it on 14 May 1996. No new information was received, however, from the Government on the outstanding cases. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the persons concerned. [back to the contents]

Egypt

132. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted two newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of Egypt, one of which reportedly occurred in 1996.

133. Of the total 17 cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group, two have been clarified. Of the 15 outstanding cases, the majority allegedly occurred between 1988 and 1994 and were submitted by non-governmental organizations and relatives of the victims. The victims included alleged sympathizers of Islamic militant groups, students and three citizens of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The renewal of the state of emergency during this period, which reportedly gave free rein to the security forces without supervision or accountability, is said to have been an aggravating factor in the disappearances.

134. The newly reported cases concern a trader and a doctor; in both cases, officers of the State Security Investigations Office are alleged to be responsible for the disappearance.

135. During the period under review, the Government submitted replies on 15 cases of disappearances, reporting that in five cases the persons concerned are in prison either for belonging to terrorist organizations or for committing terrorist acts; two cases involve suspicion of criminal activity; three cases involve Libyan nationals on whom there is no criminal or administrative information, and the police are still investigating the relevant circumstances; one case concerns a person who was released after being detained by the security authorities and on whom there is no new information; in two cases the results of the investigation did not reveal that any security-related or legal measures had been taken against the persons concerned, in one case that the person had been released from detention and left the country, and in one other case that the person concerned had escaped from prison. In a number of other cases, the Government reiterated information previously provided.

136. At its fiftieth session, the Working Group met with a representative of the Government of Egypt who expressed the desire and determination of his Government to continue to cooperate with the Working Group. During the discussion, an exchange of views also took place on a number of individual cases. [back to the contents]

El Salvador

137. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 23 newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of El Salvador. During the same period, the Working Group clarified 15 cases on the basis of information provided by the source in which it was reported that in six cases the persons had been found alive and living at liberty; in four cases the corpses of the persons concerned had been found, and in two cases the presumption of death had been judicially declared following an official request by the relatives.

138. The majority of the 2,661 reported cases occurred between 1980 and 1983, in the context of the armed conflict between the Government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). Many victims disappeared following arrest by uniformed soldiers, uniformed police or abduction in death-squad-style operations carried out by armed men in civilian clothing, reportedly linked to the army or to the security forces. Abductions by armed men in civilian clothing were, in some cases, subsequently recognized as detentions, which raised allegations of links with the security forces.

139. All of the newly reported cases occurred between 1979 and 1985 under the circumstances described above.

140. 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 or whereabouts of the disappeared persons.

Observations

141. The Working Group is encouraged by the fact that not a single new case of disappearance has been recorded since 1992. However, it continues to be concerned that little has been done to clarify the 2,27O outstanding cases. The Working Group wishes to remind the Government of El Salvador that, in accordance with the Declaration, it is the continuous commitment of the Government of El Salvador to conduct investigations "thoroughly and impartially" (art. 13) "for as long as the fate of the victim of enforced disappearance remains unclarified" (art. 13, para. 6).

142. The Working Group encourages the efforts that the Government, the Ombudsperson (or Procurator's Office for the Protection of Human Rights) and the relatives may take to clarify the cases and, if applicable, implement the provisions of article 19 of the Declaration, which entitles the relatives to compensation "in the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of enforced disappearance". [back to the contents]

Equatorial Guinea

143. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Equatorial Guinea.

144. The three previously reported cases of disappearance concern members of political opposition parties who were reportedly arrested in Malabo on 9 and 10 August 1993. The police authorities, however, reportedly refused to disclose any information on their whereabouts.

145. Although several reminders have been sent, and the cases retransmitted to the Government, at its request, in July 1996, no information has ever been received by the Working Group from the Government on the three outstanding cases. The Working Group is, therefore, still unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons. [back to the contents]

Ethiopia

146. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted one case to the Government of Ethiopia which reportedly occurred in 1996 and was sent under the urgent action procedure. During the same period, the Working Group clarified this case on the basis of information received from the source in which it was reported that the person concerned had been located in detention in Ethiopia.

147. The majority of the 102 cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group occurred between 1991 and 1994 under the Transitional Government and concerned members of the Oromo ethnic group suspected of participation in the Oromo Liberation Front who were arrested in Addis Ababa or disappeared from the Huso military detention camp in western Ethiopia. Other cases concerned members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (a political party) who disappeared in eastern Ethiopia, in the Ogaden, an area reportedly inhabited by ethnic Somalis, and in which there were reports of fighting by elements of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. Some 30 other cases occurred between 1974 and 1992 after the military Government took power, and concerned mainly, although not exclusively, high-ranking officials of Emperor Haile Selassie's Government and members of the Oromo ethnic group, in particular those believed to be involved with the Oromo Liberation Front, or persons accused of involvement with opposition political groups, including the Ethiopian Socialist Movement.

148. The newly reported case concerned an Ethiopian refugee in Djibouti who was reportedly arrested at a refugee camp in Djibouti by members of the Djiboutian police and handed over to the Ethiopian authorities.

149. During the period under review, no new information was received from the Government with regard to the outstanding cases. The Working Group is, therefore, still unable to report on the fate or whereabouts of the vast majority of disappeared persons.

Observations

150. The Working Group regrets that there has been no further information from the Government on the fate of the persons reported as disappeared. In this connection, it wishes to remind the Government of its commitment, under articles l3 and 14 of the Declaration, to investigate thoroughly all cases of enforced disappearance and to bring the perpetrators to justice. [back to the contents]

Gambia

151. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted, for the first time, one case of disappearance to the Government of the Gambia. The case concerns a member of the now dissolved House of Representatives of the Gambia who was allegedly arrested in 1995 by the police and who subsequently disappeared.

152. As the above-mentioned case was examined by the Group at its third annual session and only sent to the Government on 11 December 1996, no information was expected from the Government on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared person prior to the adoption of the present report. [back to the contents]

Greece

153. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted one newly reported case of disappearance to the Government of Greece, which reportedly occurred in 1995 and was sent under the urgent action procedure. During the same period, the Working Group retransmitted the same case to the Government, updated with new information from the source.

154. The two other outstanding cases were transmitted to the Government in 1993 and concern Albanian cousins who were reportedly taken by the police in Zagora the same year. The Government informed the Working Group in 1993 that the persons in question had never been arrested by the police, but that investigations were continuing.

155. The one newly reported case concerns a Swiss citizen who was reportedly travelling from Greece to Italy on a Greek ship and who was denied entry into Italy and returned to Greece on the same ship.

156. During the period under review, the Government provided information to the Working Group on the one newly reported case in which it said that, in the past, the subject had twice been denied entry into Greece and had been expelled from the country on several occasions for involvement in international criminal activity. The Government stated that the Italian authorities had returned him to Greece on the Greek ferry, but that no official exit of the person concerned from the ship was recorded and he might have gone ashore before passenger disembarkation control took place. The Government further reported that the competent authorities were conducting an investigation, and any results of their search would be communicated to the source and the subject's family. [back to the contents]

Guatemala

157. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Guatemala. During the same period, the Working Group considered five cases clarified on the basis of information previously provided by the Government on which the source had made no observations within the six-month period; in two cases the persons concerned were found living at liberty, and the corpses of three other persons were located. The Working Group also retransmitted to the Government one case, updated with new information from the source.

158. Concerned about the number of disappearances in Guatemala, the Working Group undertook a visit to that country in 1987. The observations included in the 1987 report on that mission (E/CN.4/1988/19/Add.1) referred in particular to the efforts that should be made to improve the functioning of habeas corpus procedures, to protect the life of witnesses, as well as of individuals and members of organizations reporting cases, and to adopt effective measures to prevent and clarify disappearances.

159. The majority of the 3,151 reported cases of disappearance in Guatemala occurred between 1979 and 1986, mainly under military regimes, and in the context of the Government's fight against the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG). The cases have been described in detail in the Group's previous reports.

160. At the forty-eighth session, representatives of the Government of Guatemala met with the Working Group and reiterated their desire to cooperate with the Group; they also requested to be provided with a list of all the outstanding cases and gave the Working Group information on a number of individual cases.

161. During the period under review, the Government provided information on 33 individual cases of disappearance. In a number of cases the Government reported that the persons concerned had been found alive at their homes, according to police registers, but no addresses or dates were provided. Other cases were reported to be under investigation or before the courts.

Observations

162. The Working Group expresses its appreciation for the cooperation of the Government during the period under review. The Working Group is encouraged by the fact that no case of disappearance has been reported as having occurred in 1996.

163. However, regarding the 3,007 outstanding cases, the Working Group reminds the Government that, in accordance with the Declaration, it is the continuous commitment of the Government to conduct investigations "thoroughly and impartially" (art. 13) "for as long as the fate of the victim of enforced disappearance remains unclarified" (art. 13, para. 6). In addition, it reminds the Government, of the need to improve the functioning of habeas corpus so as to comply with the commitment to guarantee "a prompt and effective judicial remedy" (art. 9) to prevent disappearances. [back to the contents]

Guinea

164. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Guinea.

165. The majority of the 28 reported cases in Guinea occurred in 1984 and 1985 in the context of a coup d'état. It may be noted that the Working Group has received no reports of disappearances occurring in Guinea after 1985.

166. During the period under review, no new information was received from the Government with respect to the outstanding cases. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons. [back to the contents]

Haiti

167. During the period under review, no new cases of disappearance were transmitted by the Working Group to the Government of Haiti.

168. The majority of the 48 reported cases of disappearance occurred in three waves during the periods 1981-1985, 1986-1990 and 1991-1993. Most of the cases which occurred during the first period concerned members or supporters of the Haitian Christian Democrat Party who were allegedly arrested by members of the armed forces or by the Tonton Macoutes. The cases that occurred during the second period concerned persons who were reportedly arrested by armed men in civilian clothes, members of the Anti-Gang and Investigation Service, and by the police. The last wave of cases took place in the aftermath of the coup d'état which ousted President Aristide.

169. During the period under review, the Government of Haiti informed the Working Group that with reference to the cases of disappearance which reportedly occurred between 1981 and 1990, when President Aristide assumed his functions as President of Haiti on 7 January 1991, the Government found no political prisoners in Haitian jails and no files relating to the persons reported as disappeared. With regard to the cases which reportedly occurred between 1991 and 1994, following the return to constitutional order on 15 October 1994, the Government found no files relating to the persons who had allegedly disappeared. It stated that all of the documents of the Haitian Armed Forces and of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti had been sent abroad by the multinational forces. The Government of Haiti, therefore, was unable to report on the fate or whereabouts of the persons reported as disappeared. The Government expressed the hope that the return of these documents would permit it to elucidate the reported cases of disappearance.

170. The Working Group decided to raise the issue of these files with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti, in the hope that access to such information may be obtained. [back to the contents]

Honduras

171. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted one new case of disappearance to the Government of Honduras, which reportedly occurred in 1995 and was sent under the urgent action procedure.

172. The majority of the 197 cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group occurred between 1981 and 1984, a period during which members of Battalion 3-16 of the armed forces and heavily armed plain-clothes men seized people perceived as ideological enemies in their homes or on the street and took them to clandestine detention centres. The systematic practice of disappearance ended in 1984, although sporadic cases continued to occur.

173. The newly reported case concerned a person who was allegedly arrested on charges of murder and who is said to have been transferred from a public security force prison to the Central Penitentiary. However, the authorities at the Penitentiary have reportedly denied that the person concerned had been transferred there, and since then his whereabouts have remained unknown.

174. The Working Group was informed that in July 1995 the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights had charged 10 military officers with the attempted murder and unlawful detention of six students in 1982. As far as the Group was informed this year, the judicial proceedings continue.

175. During the period under review, the Government provided the Working Group with a copy of the law establishing the National Human Rights Commission.

Observations

176. The Working Group expresses its appreciation of the decision taken to establish the National Human Rights Commission and encourages the steps taken to prosecute alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations. Regarding the 129 outstanding cases, the Working Group reminds the Government that, in accordance with the Declaration, it is the continuous commitment of the State to conduct investigations "thoroughly and impartially" (art. 13) "for as long as the fate of the victim of enforced disappearance remains unclarified" (art. 13, para. 6). [back to the contents]

India

177. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 23 newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of India, five of which reportedly occurred in 1996 and were sent under the urgent action procedure. During the same period, the Working Group clarified six cases; three on the basis of information previously submitted by the Government on which no observations had been received from the source; three on the basis of information received from the source in which it was reported that two of the persons concerned had been released and one was found dead. At the same time, the Group retransmitted to the Government six cases updated with new information from the source.

178. A total of 255 cases of disappearance have been transmitted to the Government. The majority occurred between 1983 and 1994 in the context of ethnic and religious disturbances in the Punjab and Kashmir regions. The disappearances in both regions were primarily attributable to the police authorities, the army and paramilitary groups acting in conjunction with, or with the acquiescence of, the armed forces. In Jammu and Kashmir numerous persons are said to have disappeared after "shoot-outs" with security forces. The disappearances were alleged to have been the result of a number of factors related to the wide powers granted to the security forces under emergency legislation, in particular the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) and the Public Safety Act. In addition to allowing preventive detention, these laws reportedly allowed prolonged detention without the many other safeguards available under the criminal law. The victims have included shopkeepers, a lawyer who was reportedly well known for defending Sikhs detained in the Punjab, journalists, students and others.

179. Most of the newly reported cases of disappearance occurred in the Punjab and concerned persons who were said to have been arrested by the police. Two cases concerned members of a political opposition party who were reportedly arrested by the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir and later released. One case concerned a human rights activist from Jammu and Kashmir, reportedly the Chairman of the Kashmir Commission of Jurists, who was said to have filed a petition in the High Court on behalf of detainees. He is also said to have planned to attend the fifty-first session of the Commission on Human Rights. He was subsequently found dead. Ten cases concerned disappearances which reportedly occurred between 1991 and 1995 in Jammu and Kashmir, and concerned persons from a variety of professional backgrounds who were allegedly arrested by the Special Task Force of the Jammu and Kashmir police, the Border Security Forces or members of the army.

180. According to reports received from non-governmental organizations during the period under review, the situation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir has worsened. It is alleged that, despite State responsibility under article 2, paragraph 1, of the Declaration, government forces such as the Army, the Federal Security Forces, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Force and the Special Force, as well as paramilitary forces, are implicated in disappearances and other violations of human rights. It is said that none of the perpetrators has been brought to justice.

181. With regard to the situation of human rights in Punjab, it is alleged that the Punjab police are the main perpetrators of human rights violations and that they act with impunity. In many cases and in violation of article 10 of the Declaration, the police have reportedly not responded to writs of habeas corpus and have failed to produce detainees in court, and even denied their detention. It is further alleged that the Punjab police have secretly cremated hundreds of bodies of individuals who had disappeared following their arrest by the police. Reportedly, the Punjab Police, in violation of article 13 of the Declaration, have subjected to harassment and threats those who file complaints against them in the Supreme Court and High Court. The National Security Act, which is said to permit detention without trial for long periods reportedly facilitates human rights abuses, including disappearances. Concern was expressed that investigations into cases of disappearance are not actively pursued and those responsible are not brought to justice, in violation of article 14 of the Declaration.

182. During the period under review, the Government submitted information to the Working Group on 15 individual cases. With regard to 10 cases, the Government reported that the Commission on Inquiry had not found sufficient evidence to prove that the police had arrested these persons. In two cases the Government reported that the persons concerned had been killed in a confrontation with the police. In one case, it was reported that the matter was pending before the court; in another case the person concerned was being held on criminal charges in judicial custody, and in one case, although the subject had not been found in detention, according to the investigation which had been carried out, officials of the Punjab police department had been involved in that person's abduction and they were being prosecuted.

183. With regard to the information of a general nature submitted to the Government concerning Jammu and Kashmir, the Government stated: "the allegations received by the Working Group are a distortion of the facts. Allegations that the situation has deteriorated are without substance. Contrary to the allegations, the situation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir has undergone a radical change for the better. The human rights situation has been improving steadily and the State ... enjoys a popular Government elected through free and fair polls". Allegations that violations of human rights had been committed by the security forces were immediately investigated and so far some 272 security personnel had been punished.

184. With respect to Punjab, the Government stated that the Supreme Court has received a writ petition alleging that the Punjab police had secretly cremated hundreds of bodies. Consequently, this matter was under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on orders of the Supreme Court and the CBI had submitted an interim report in that regard. The National Security Act was implemented in periods of crisis in order to protect the citizens against terrorism. However, there were safeguards against its misuse. The State government was required to be informed of the detention without delay and the concerned government had to confirm the detention order, and if the grounds were considered to be insufficient, the detention order was immediately revoked. When the detention order had been confirmed by the State government, the order and details must also be presented within three weeks to an advisory board chaired by a sitting judge of the High Court for its reconfirmation. The Advisory Board is required to make its recommendation within seven weeks from the date of the order of detention, after considering the information received and supplementary information when necessary, and also hearing the detainee in person.

185. The Government also provided detailed statistical information on action taken against security force personnel for excesses on terrorist violence and on other related subjects.

Observations

186. The Working Group wishes to again express its appreciation to the Government of India for the information which it has provided.

187. Nevertheless, it remains concerned at the increase in reported cases of disappearance, particularly in the Punjab and Kashmir regions. It wishes to remind the Government of its responsibility under the Declaration to prevent enforced disappearances. In particular, in accordance with article 10.1, any person deprived of liberty shall be held in an officially recognized place of detention and shall be brought before a judicial authority promptly after detention. The National Security Act, which permits detention without trial for extended periods, is not in conformity with this provision and thereby facilitates enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.

188. With respect to allegations that persons who file complaints against members of the security forces in cases of disappearance are subjected to harassment, the Working Group reminds the Government of its commitment under article 13.5 to punish those responsible appropriately. In addition, all persons alleged to have perpetrated an act of enforced disappearance should be brought to justice, in accordance with article 14.

189. The Working Group, while taking into account the legitimacy of derogating from some human rights commitments, in accordance with international law, during public emergencies, nevertheless wishes to stress that pursuant to article 7 of the Declaration, no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances. [back to the contents]

Indonesia

190. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 10 newly reported cases of disappearance, nine of which are said to have occurred in 1996, to the Government of Indonesia; eight of these cases were sent under the urgent action procedure. During the same period, the Working Group clarified one case on the basis of information submitted by the Government in which it was reported that the subject had been arrested by police officers with a warrant on charges of fund-raising for an armed separatist group, but subsequently released for lack of evidence.

191. The majority of the 428 cases of reported disappearance occurred in 1992 following the incident at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor, where, on 12 November 1991, security forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators during a memorial service for two youths who had been killed in a clash with the police. Over 200 persons are alleged to have disappeared on or shortly after 12 November 1991.

192. All of the newly reported cases occurred in East Timor. The one clarified case occurred in December 1995 and concerned a person arrested in Surabaya and subsequently released, as described above. Two of the cases reportedly occurred in Welaluho in February 1996; one of the persons concerned allegedly was arrested by the police and the other by the military. The latter was reported to have been tortured. The third case concerned a subject who was allegedly arrested by the Territorial Battalion on charges that he had organized and mobilized young people and participated in the demonstration at the Santa Cruz cemetery on 12 November 1991. The fourth case concerns the wife of a commander of the Timorese Resistance (Falintil) and her four children, who had allegedly been arrested by the security forces (Babinsa) in Nunuhou village of Hatuquessi, Liquica district. The remaining case concerns a 17-year-old student who allegedly disappeared on 14 July 1996 in Gleno in the Ermera district of East Timor after soldiers carried out house to house raids searching for those responsible for a fire set the same evening at the Gleno market; an eyewitness reported that the student was taken away in a military jeep by soldiers.

193. During the period under review, the Government provided replies on nine individual cases. In the clarified case and in one other case, the Government reported that the subjects had been arrested, but each had been released at a later date and had returned to their normal daily activities. In two cases, one of which involved five members of a single family, the Government reported that the individuals had been summoned by the police for questioning or identification of a family member, but all the individuals had been allowed to return home on the same date. In the final case, the Government reported that the subject had never been arrested, nor had he ever been involved in criminal acts or civil suits.

Observations

194. The Working Group wishes to express its appreciation to the Government of Indonesia for the replies which it has submitted to the Group on individual cases.

195. Nevertheless, it is particularly concerned at the increase in cases of disappearance which reportedly occurred in 1996 in East Timor. It reminds the Government of its commitment under article 3 of the Declaration to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearance in any territory under its jurisdiction. In particular, any person deprived of liberty, in accordance with article 10, shall be held in an officially recognized place of detention and be brought before a judicial authority promptly after detention. [back to the contents]

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Notes

1. Since its creation in 1980, the Working Group has submitted a report to the Commission annually, starting at the Commission's thirty-seventh session. The document symbols of the previous 16 reports are as follows: E/CN.4/1435 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1492 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1983/14; E/CN.4/1984/21 and Add.1 and 2; E/CN.4/1985/15 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1986/18 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1987/15 and Corr.1 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1988/19 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1989/18 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1990/13; E/CN.4/1991/20 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1992/18 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1993/25 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1994/26 and Corr.1 and 2 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1995/36; and E/CN.4/1996/38. [back to the text]

2. Resolutions 1996/20, 1996/32, 1996/47, 1996/48, 1996/49, 1996/51, 1996/52, 1996/53, 1996/55, 1996/62, 1996/69, 1996/70, 1996/78 and 1996/85 I. [back to the text]

3. Hereafter referred to as the "Declaration". [back to the text]


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