Amnesty International has called on world leaders to help prevent enforced disappearances by urging them to ratify a landmark treaty at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Disappearances Convention) needs just four more ratifications to become binding.
The UNGA third committee adopted a resolution on Thursday, with an unprecedented number of co-sponsors calling on all states to sign or ratify the convention without delay and bring the convention into force by December.
The convention aims to establish the truth about enforced disappearances, punish perpetrators and provide reparations to victims and their families.
“The Disappearances Convention is one of the strongest human rights treaties ever adopted by the United Nations,” said Christopher Keith Hall.
“In the past, perpetrators of this crime have acted in the knowledge that they were unlikely to be held accountable, while the families of victims have been denied their right to justice. The Disappearances Convention is an important tool for the international community to halt this trend.”
Ecuador became the 16th state to ratify the Convention on 20 October, while Germany and Spain did so on 24 September. In total, 81 countries have signed it.
The UNGA has expressed concern at the increase in enforced disappearances around the world. There are a growing number of reports of harassment, ill-treatment and intimidation of witnesses or relatives of persons who have disappeared.
The Disappearances Convention represents the culmination of a long effort by many families of disappeared persons, NGOs and governments to address the continuing problem of enforced disappearance through international law.
“Amnesty International urges all states that have not done so already to ratify the Convention at the earliest opportunity and to make the declarations to recognize the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider both individuals’ and states’ communications,” said Christopher Keith Hall.
“Victims of enforced disappearances and their families have waited long enough. If the international community acts swiftly, 2009 could finally bring them a new tool to search for their loved ones and obtain justice.”