UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances publishes findings on Switzerland, Colombia and Mongolia

OHCHR

The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) on Tuesday issued its findings on Switzerland, Colombia and Mongolia, the State parties which it examined during its latest session.

The findings contain positive aspects of each country’s implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance, as well as the Committee’s main concerns and recommendations. Some of the key highlights include:

Switzerland

CED expressed appreciation for Switzerland’s engagement in favour of the Convention and for the steps taken by the State party to implement and promote it. CED also welcomed the Federal Council’s acknowledgement of Swiss authorities’ failure to prevent illegal adoptions of children from Sri Lanka in the 1980s and 1990s, and noted the Federal Council’sexpression of regret offered to the adopted people and their families.

The Committee urged the State party to conduct thorough and impartial investigations to determine whether children adopted from Sri Lanka during the 1980s and 1990s may have been victims of enforced disappearance and wrongful removal, and whether other offences, such as falsification, concealment or destruction of identity documents were committed in these cases. It also recommended that the Swiss authorities guarantee the right to reparation to any person who has suffered from such acts.

The definition of enforced disappearance contained in Switzerland’s existing Criminal Code lacks clarity, and the Committee therefore recommended that the State party review it to remove any ambiguity. Further, the Committee expressed concern at allegations that there are regular delays in the provision of information to relatives and legal counsel of detainees during criminal investigation, as allowed by the Code of Criminal Procedure. It called on the State party to amend its national legislation to ensure its full compliance with the Convention.

Colombia

CED noted the creation of new mechanisms and a national plan to search for disappeared persons. The Committee, however, expressed concern about the lack of significant progress in the investigations into cases of enforced disappearance committed in the context of the Colombian conflict and outside of it, as well as the poor results in the search for disappeared persons, including the 84,330 adults and the 9,964 children registered as victims of enforced disappearance by the Attorney General’s Office as of end 2020. The Committee urged the State party to investigate all cases of enforced disappearance promptly, impartially and independently. It also called for measures to ensure that the alleged perpetrators of enforced disappearance, including military and State officials, are tried and punished appropriately, and that the victims have access to full reparation.

The Committee was also concerned about repeated and consistent allegations that people detained, including in the context of protests, have been prevented from communicating with their families and lawyers. The Committee urged Colombia to guarantee that all people deprived of liberty have access to a lawyer and can communicate with their relatives or any person of their choice.

Mongolia

CED welcomed Mongolia’s recent legislative measures to criminalize enforced disappearance, to protect witness and victims and to establish a torture prevention mechanism. The Committee, however, was concerned about the narrow definition of enforced disappearances in the country, which only includes unlawful detention.

The Committee recommended that Mongolia take necessary legislative measures to bring the definition of “enforced disappearance” in line with the Convention. It also called on the State party to provide specific training on the provisions of the Convention to all law enforcement and security personnel – whether military or civil, government officials, judges, prosecutors and other people who may be involved in the custody or treatment of those deprived of their liberty.

The above findings, officially named as Concluding Observations, are now available online on the session webpage.

CED is due to hold its next session from 13 to 24 September to review the initial reports of Brazil and Panama, the additional information of France and Spain, and to adopt lists for issues for Costa Rica, Mali and Mauritania.

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