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Committee on Enforced Disappearances Opens Twenty-Third Session

Meeting Summaries


Hears Victim Testimony by the Wife of a Target of Enforced Disappearance


The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning opened its twenty-third session, during which it will examine the initial reports of Mali and the Czech Republic, and a report by Uruguay, on their implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Wan Hea Lee, Chief of the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section of the Human Rights Treaties Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Representative of the Secretary-General, said that enforced disappearances remained an unbearable reality worldwide. As the figures continued to rise, new trends were appearing. There was a clear increase in the number of women victims of disappearance as well as reprisals against families and relatives of disappeared people. Despite important progress achieved in several of the States parties that had taken action to implement the recommendations of the Committee to improve the compliance of their practice and their legislative and jurisprudential frameworks with the Convention, it was not enough. The slow ratification of the Convention prevented the Committee from reaching the global impact it could and should achieve. While the Committee was clearly suffering from a lack of meeting time, it had been particularly active over the last months.

Ms. Lee noted that the Committee had invited other Committees and Special Procedure mandate holders to take part in a joint statement on illegal adoptions; and called for input from civil society, States, national human rights institutions, academia, and other relevant actors to its draft declaration on enforced disappearances and non-State actors. The Committee had further called for written input on the concept note for its general comment on disappearances in the context of migration, and had organized regional consultations on that project. The Committee had also invited all interested actors to provide input ahead of preparations for its visit to Iraq that was scheduled from 12 November 2022. In all those projects, the Committee had directly engaged with United Nations Human Rights Office Field presences and other parts of that Office. Such projects and interactions were essential to enrich the discussion, to ensure that all actors could share their perspectives, and to strengthen and build new partnerships to promote the implementation of Treaty Bodies recommendations. Enforced disappearances were an issue of life and death, and all aspects of that issue must be addressed without delay.

Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana, Committee Chairperson, said that nothing would be more encouraging than to be able to claim that enforced disappearances were no longer occurring, yet they continued to happen, with very serious impacts, in particular for the victims of those horrendous crimes. Preventing enforced disappearances and fighting impunity were not aspirations, they were commitments made by States parties to the Convention that required actions. Enforced disappearance was not a matter that concerned only the victims, their relatives or organizations that supported them, it concerned everyone– society and States. The Committee was inspired by the strength and courage of the victims, who in their daily quest to find their loved ones pushed States to adopt measures aimed at truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition. The Committee had an essential role to play in that regard. Enforced disappearances challenged everyone to put themself at the service of States, civil society actors, national, regional and international human rights mechanisms working against that horrible crime. The cooperation and commitment of all actors was indispensable to make the prevention and eradication of enforced disappearances a reality throughout the world.

It was crucial that the commitment of States parties to the obligations undertaken by ratifying the Convention was expressed through the implementation of the recommendations formulated by the Committee. The Committee continued to promote the ratification of the Convention in all forums and was currently working on the organisation of a global event to that end. The Committee and its Secretariat were at the disposal of States wishing to receive information or technical guidance on the Convention and its content to consider ratification of the Convention and recognition of the Committee's competence to consider individual and inter-State complaints. In that regard, the Committee was currently working on the preparation of a Guide on Ratification of the Convention. The ratifications by Croatia, Denmark and Luxembourg that took place in the first half of 2022 were welcomed. It was regrettable, however, that while the number of victims of enforced disappearances in the world continued to increase, since the twenty-second session of the Committee last April, no other State had ratified the Convention. All States that had not yet ratified the Convention were invited to do so. The fact that Colombia had recently accepted the competence of the Committee to examine individual complaints under article 31 of the Convention was welcomed. With that recognition, 28 States had recognised the competence of the Committee to examine individual complaints under article 31 of the Convention. The positive impact of the Urgent Actions procedure was underlined.

Sandya Ekneligoda, the wife of a Sri Lankan human rights activist, explained on the night of 27 August 2009, her husband, Prageeth Ekneligoda, had been abducted and tortured. He was once again abducted on 24 January 2010, before he was forcibly disappeared. Explaining the many steps she had taken to seek justice, she termed it “an endless challenge in the current circumstances”. Many Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim women were searching for their missing loved ones throughout the country, she said. Among them, Tamil mothers had been at the forefront of the continuous struggle for justice. Since her husband’s disappearance, Ms. Ekneligoda said that she had had to be both mother and father to her children. She had lost relatives and friends who chose to distance themselves from her, due to her pursuit of justice. Various shops had refused to serve her, and taxis refused to take her, she told the Committee. At times, she had been blocked from taking a seat on buses. She said she continued to face various forms of threats and defamation. As a result of those incidents, she said she had been forced to send her children abroad as refugees. She asked for support in order to request Sri Lanka to take action and deliver the truth and justice she sought.

Suela Janina, Committee Member, commenting on Ms. Ekneligoda’s testimony, noted that it was not easy to share the pain felt by the family of a disappeared person. Stories differed, but what was the same was the anguish of not knowing where a loved one was held. In the face of breaches of human rights by States and other actors, women like Ms. Ekneligoda needed to be at the forefront of the fight against enforced disappearances. Whatever challenges a society might go through, enforced disappearances were not acceptable. The impact of enforced disappearances was severe on women and children, due to the severe economic hardship that often followed enforced disappearances. The fact that women around the world already suffered from unequal treatment increased the difficulties they faced as relatives of forcibly disappeared individuals. Leading the search for the truth on enforced disappearances, women were facing reprisals. States had a responsibility to protect human rights, and the Committee had several tools to communicate with State parties. Ms. Janina expressed hopes for a constructive dialogue with the Sri Lankan authorities, and encouraged Ms. Ekneligoda to continue to fight for the case of her husband.

During the meeting, the Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found at the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available via the following link:

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon to begin its consideration of the initial report of Mali (CED/C/MLI/1).


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