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Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Please, read the general remarks about the special procedures first.

The Working Group is composed of independent experts.

Rights and Intended Situations

The practice of enforced disappearances violates multiple human rights of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the two International Covenants on Human Rights (ICCPR and ICESCR) as well as human rights granted by other important international instruments (most recently: International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, as of 31 May 2008 not yet entered into force).
The disappearance can infringe the following human rights:

  • Recognition of the legal personality of the victim;
  • His/her right to liberty and security;
  • Right of not being subjected to torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Right to life. 

Implementation of the Procedure

The fact of not being in possession of all the details should not hinder anyone of notifying a case known to him/her. However, the Working Group can only examine cases of which it has at least the following information:

  • Full name of the disappeared person (comprising every detail regarding his/her identification, for example his/her national identity card number, a photography, etc.)
  • Year, month and day of the disappearance
  • Place of detention or abduction or where the disappeared person was seen for the last time
  • Information about the persons in charge of the detention or abduction
  • Information about the measures taken by the family or other persons to localize the disappeared person (investigations towards the authorities, habeas corpus appeal, etc.)
  • Person or organization submitting the report (name and address will be kept confidential, if desired)

A model questionnaire can be found here:

The complaint must at least contain the following information:

  • Identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the inquiry;
  • Full name, age, sex and place of residence or origin of the supposed victim;
  • Indication of as many details as possible (name, age, sex and place of residence or origin) if it refers to a group or community;
  • Date and place of the incident (approximately, if the exact date is unknown);
  • Detailed description of the circumstances of the incident under which the presumed violation took place;
  • Identity of the suspect(s) (name if known, title/position, presumed motivation);
  • As the case may be, measures taken at the national level (for example, if the police had been informed, in case that other national authorities are involved, as well as a possible position of the government);
  • As the case may be, measures taken at the international level (for example, if other mechanisms have been called up).

The inquiry should be directed to:

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva,
1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 00 92

The Working Group then examines the requests and decides, if regarded as necessary, to inform the States concerned in form of a communication, a letter of allegation (in case of violations which reputedly have already taken place and which would have irreversible consequences for the supposed victims), an urgent appeal (for current or imminent violations) or a press statement.

Last change: 18.12.08 - 23:02