Message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres on 10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
January 30, 2019
FROM THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL
10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
17 February 2017
Message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Delivered by Ms. Maria Luiza Viotti, Chef de Cabinet
I am pleased to send greetings to this important commemoration of the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. While the Convention has its roots in the horrific practices of Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 80s, it remains sadly relevant today.
In too many countries, political opponents are abducted and forcibly detained with the direct or indirect involvement of the State. In internal conflicts, competing forces and violent extremists seize civilians and keep them. Non-state actors and criminal gangs also perpetrate acts tantamount to enforced disappearances by targeting civilians, including vulnerable migrants escaping conflict and humanitarian crisis.
Enforced disappearance is an egregious violation of human rights and international law. That is why it is essential that we have a contemporary legal instrument to monitor, investigate and prevent it. Last December, in Geneva, Conference of States Parties to the Convention evaluated the functioning of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. Thanks to this treaty body, hundreds of family members of victims have been assisted, some persons have been located alive and others who have been killed have been identified.
As a result of the Committee’s work, we also have a greater understanding of the gender dimension of these crimes. While the majority of victims of enforced disappearances are men, the impact on their female family members is not just emotional, it can result in destitution, loss of children and increased vulnerability to violence.
To these measurable results we must add the unquantifiable preventive effect resulting from the simple ratification of the Convention. We cannot count how many violations have been prevented, how many people have been able to secure freedom from enforced disappearance or secret detention and how many have been saved from being returned to the clutches of their persecutors
Yet, despite its clear merits, the Convention has not attracted the number of ratifications it deserves. With its current membership of 56 States Parties, the Convention is deprived of the broad-based support it requires to meet its objectives and the hopes and expectations of the families, such as the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who fought so hard for its adoption. This Convention is the fruit of their unspeakable suffering and their resolute demands for justice. We have a collective responsibility to them and all victims of enforced disappearance who have the right to know the truth.
As we celebrate the Convention’s 10th anniversary, I urge all Governments to reaffirm their commitment to this bedrock principle of human dignity: that no-one should be subjected to enforced disappearance or held in secret detention. Let us work together to prevent enforced disappearance from occurring anywhere, at any time, to any person.