On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the IACHR, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances call on States to adopt and implement search and investigation strategies within the framework of a comprehensive policy on disappearances

August 30, 2021

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Geneva / Washington, D.C.- In the context of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR),the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) call on the States of the region to adopt the necessary measures for the construction and implementation of a comprehensive policy on the enforced disappearance that includes the search for missing persons and the investigation of their disappearances among its priorities. Likewise, they urge the States to ensure the coordination and cooperation of all State institutions and entities whose participation is necessary to guarantee an effective, prompt and exhaustive search and investigation.

In recent months, the IACHR, the CED and the WGEID have noted the advances and good practices of different States in the region in the formulation of comprehensive search and investigation strategies. Specifically, they recognize the adoption of the National Plans for the Search for Disappeared Persons in Peru, in 2021; and in Colombia, in 2020 and 2021, as programmatic tools of public policy for search and whose content was the product of a participatory process involving different actors such as victims, civil society organizations, State authorities and international organizations. Also to be highlighted is the adoption in México of the Homologated Search Protocol, in 2020; and the Additional Protocol for the Search of Children and Adolescents, in 2021; as normative instruments that establish mechanisms, procedures and differentiated methods for the search and location of missing persons and missing children, respectively; as well as the participatory construction of the Extraordinary Mechanism for Forensic Identification as part of the policy on human identification and the creation of decentralized centers for forensic identification such as the Regional Center for Human Identification of Coahuila.

Despite the above, challenges persist in the matter of inter-institutional coordination that could compromise the effective search for and localization of missing persons, as well as the investigation of their disappearance. Therefore, they call on the States of the region to eliminate all legal and factual obstacles that impede such inter-institutional coordination, as well as to ensure a clear and coordinated search and investigation strategy in which all State bodies should provide the necessary assistance within the framework of their powers. In particular, they reiterate the obligation to ensure that the search and criminal investigation are interrelated and mutually reinforcing, and recall the importance of establishing mechanisms and procedures for articulation, coordination and systematic exchange of information between the institutions or units in charge of the search and criminal investigation, especially in those cases in which there is an organic separation of powers.

The IACHR, the CED and the WGEID agree that the obligations to search and investigate must be materialized through an articulated set of legislative, administrative, judicial and any other type of measures aimed at preventing and putting an end to enforced disappearances. For these reasons, they underscore the importance of adopting a comprehensive public policy on enforced disappearance that allows for the clarification of past and recent cases, ensuring the search for missing persons, the identification and punishment of the perpetrators, the prevention of these acts, as well as the adoption of protection measures for the victims, their relatives, those who accompany them and those who participate in the search and investigation, and other measures of non-repetition. In particular, they emphasize that the policy on the search for persons must be built on the basis of the State's obligations to search for, locate, release, identify, respect and return the body or remains, as appropriate, of any person subjected to disappearance, with a differential approach.

In addition to the above, the IACHR, the CED and the WGEID call on the States to ensure that the construction and implementation of public policies on search and investigation are the result of an open, deliberative and broadly participatory process involving victims, civil society organizations and any other person with experience and willingness to cooperate. On this issue, they recall that international and inter-American standards have pointed out the importance of the principles of social participation and access to information as a guarantee of transparency and accountability in the construction of public policies with a human rights approach.

Finally, the IACHR, the CED and the WGEID urge the States of the American region that have not yet done so to ratify the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, as well as the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, as an official expression of their commitment to prevent and eradicate this abhorrent practice. They also call for the application of the Guiding Principles for the Search for Missing Persons of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the recommendations of the Working Group on norms and public policies for the effective investigation of enforced disappearances.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

The CED is the body of independent experts which monitors the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance by the States Parties. The Convention was designed to protect all persons from enforced disappearance, prevent the recurrence of this crime and provide support to victims and guidance to States on measures to be taken to promote the rights guaranteed in the Convention and to encourage collaboration and assistance among States.

The mandate of the WGEID is to assist the families of missing persons in determining the fate and whereabouts of missing persons. The Working Group essentially acts as a channel of communication between the families of disappeared persons and governments, with a view to resolving cases of disappearance. With the adoption in 1992 of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance by the General Assembly, the Working Group has been mandated to monitor the progress of States in fulfilling their obligations under the Declaration, and to provide assistance in promoting its implementation.

No. 224/21

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