UN committee concludes country visit, calls for urgent legislative reform and attention to victims

OHCHR

The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) called on Iraq to take urgent action to include enforced disappearance as an autonomous offence in national legislation, stressing that the process cannot be further postponed.

“The absence of an explicit definition in the domestic legislation of enforced disappearance as an autonomous crime is of great concern,” Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana, Chair of the Committee, said at the end of the 12-day country visit to Iraq.

“To work on a crime that does not exist in the national legal framework is illusory, regardless of the modalities and objectives developed,” she added.

In a statement published at the end of the visit, the CED delegation clarified that enforced disappearance refers to cases committed by State agents or groups of people acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the State. The delegation said the existing information and data available in Iraq do not allow measuring the scale of this crime. It recalled that, as of today, it has registered 555 Urgent Actions related to disappearances that occurred in the country, and that the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances had transmitted a total of 16575 cases to Iraq from 1980 to 2013. During this visit, the CED delegation also received hundreds of allegations of enforced disappearances from different governorates.

The delegation urged Iraq to establish a centralised and interconnected register to enable reliable identification of enforced disappearance and effective access to information by all institutions in charge of searching for the disappeared and investigating alleged cases of disappearance.

The experts expressed their appreciation for the cooperation of Iraq, which facilitated them to meet with authorities at the federal and regional levels in Anbar, Bagdad, Erbil, Mosul and Sinjar from 12 to 24 November. In addition, they accompanied an exhumation and visited four places of deprivation of liberty.

They further highlighted the need to address the daily suffering of victims. Amid the suffering caused by decades of violence and human rights violations, families and relatives of disappeared persons have to live with the permanent anguish of not knowing their fate and whereabouts. Additionally, victims must confront a very complex institutional framework, such as reporting to no less than seven institutions for every complaint and claim.

The delegation also expressed great concern about numerous allegations of reprisals against families, relatives and representatives of the disappeared, as well as actors involved in the processes of search and investigation. In this regard, the Committee recalled that no one who participated in the conversations or contributed information to the Committee should be subject to reprisals.

“We recognise that Iraq is facing enormous challenges. No system or mechanism can succeed without political will, effective participation of victims, adequate financial resources, as well as committed and well-trained staff to carry out searches and investigations,” said Villa Quintana.

“We hereby restate that our guiding objective is not only to document the situation but also to identify ways of working with the authorities, victims and other actors to eradicate and prevent enforced disappearances,” she added.

The Committee will adopt and publish the final visit report in March 2023.

The CED delegation was composed of Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana, Chair of the Committee and Head of the delegation, Barbara Lochbihler, Vice Chair of the Committee, and Mohammed Ayat, Vice Chair of the Committee, and Albane Prophette-Pallasco, Head of the Committee’s Secretariat.

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