Update: 21.05.2014

International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

Adopted on 20 December 2006 by the UN General Assembly, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was designed as a legally binding instrument against the disappearance of persons. According to Art 1. of the Convention no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance. The Convention entered into force on 23 December 2010.

Text of the Convention

English / French

Signatory states and ratifications

The Convention has so far been signed by 93 states and ratified by 42 (as at 21 May 2014; current count).

On the history of the Convention

As early as 1980 the UN Commission on Human Rights constituted a working group to address the problems arising from missing and disappeared persons, and in 1992 the General Assembly agreed on a declaration for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance. In 2002, the Commission on Human Rights mandated a working group with elaborating a draft of a convention which was then presented in September 2005. During its first meeting in June 2006, the newly created Human Rights Council adopted  the draft treaty unanimously and forwarded it to the General Assembly which agreed on it on 20 December 2006.

Definition «Enforced Disappearance»

«Enforced disappearance» is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of
deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law (Art.2).

Obligations of Contracting States

State Parties must enact specific laws establishing the crime of enforced disappearance. They must investigate complaints and reports of enforced disappearance and bring those responsible to justice. Other obligations are of a preventive nature, such as the obligation to detain persons only in officially approved and monitored institutions in which all prisoners are registered, the absolute right to Habeas corpus (a legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention, that is, detention lacking sufficient cause or evidence), the interdiction of concealment of the whereabouts of arrested persons which are in this way placed outside the protection of the law, as well as the right to receie information on prisoners. The Convention recognises the right of victims and their families to know the truth regarding the circumstances and fate of the disappeared person.  It also treats the unlawful abduction of children whose parents were victims of enforced disappearance as well as the faking of these childrens' identities and their adoption.

Monitoring Process

A monitoring body is established to check on the implementation of the rights and obligations agreed upon. If the Committee receives information which appears to it to contain wellfounded indications that enforced disappearance is being practised on a widespread or systematic basis in the territory under the jurisdiction of a State Party, it may, after seeking from the State Party concerned all relevant information on the situation, urgently bring the matter to the attention of the General Assembly of the United Nations, through the Secretary-General of the United Nations. In certain cases enforced disappearance can also be considered as a crime against humanity and may result in international prosecution with the help of the organisations of the United Nations

Further information

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