UN: EU general statement on the resolution on the report of the Human Rights Council

United Nations, General Assembly, 61st Session, 82nd Plenary Meeting; Agenda Item 68: Report of the Human Rights Council - International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, General Statement on the Resolution

H.E. Ms. Kirsti Lintonen, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN, on behalf of the EU

New York, 20 December 2006

Madam President of the General Assembly,

Distinguished delegates,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

Madam President,

The European Union welcomes the adoption by consensus of the “International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance” as one of the major achievements of the General Assembly this year. We would therefore like to thank all delegations for joining the consensus. The very high number of co-sponsors of the resolution through which the Convention was adopted by the 3rd Committee is very encouraging, in particular with a view to universal ratification of this new instrument.

For over 25 years, victims’ families, non-governmental organizations, many governments and international organizations have undertaken continuous and unflagging efforts for the adoption by the United Nations of an international instrument against enforced disappearances in order to tackle this heinous and inhuman affliction. And finally, here we are!

Madam President,

the adoption of the Convention by the General Assembly is a significant step forward in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Convention recognizes the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, as well as the right of victims and their relatives to justice and reparation. Enforced disappearance is qualified as a crime both in peace and wartime, and no exceptional circumstances, whether a state of war, internal political instability or any public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance. In the Convention, States Parties pledge to criminalize enforced disappearances and, accordingly, to try the perpetrators and masterminds.

Moreover, pursuant to this new instrument, States Parties undertake to prohibit secret detention and unofficial places of detention, as well as reaffirm their obligation to provide legal guarantees in cases of deprivation of liberty. Such legal commitments are key to prevent situations when a person could be relegated to total vulnerability at the hands of the perpetrators of the crime, deprived of all of his or her rights and placed outside the protection of the law.

The Convention also lays ground for an obligation on the part of States Parties to guarantee the victims’ relatives the right to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person. By these means we can at least alleviate the torture caused by endless waiting and uncertainty about the return of one's beloved .

Madam President,

In our view, the adoption of the Convention by consensus fills a substantial gap in international human rights law, as well as reflects the strong political signal of the international community that this shameful and still widespread practice must come to an end. It also demonstrates the will of the international community to put a stop to impunity for this grave human rights violation. The European Union is fully convinced that the Convention will serve as a powerful tool to prevent enforced disappearances and torture, and to fight impunity for these crimes in the future.

In this regard, adoption of this instrument is not just a token of our achievement, it also denotes a new starting point: the next step is to ensure that the Convention comes into force as soon as possible. The European Union therefore calls on all Member States of the United Nations to consider signing this Convention during the signing ceremony to be held in Paris on 6 February 2007. 

We thank you, Madam President.

* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.