I am honoured to address the second thematic conference of the Euromed Federation against Enforced Disappearances (FEMED), concerning « Transitional Justice and Enforced Disappearances ».
Enforced disappearance is a horrifying crime which still takes place all around the world, affecting men, women and children alike, leaving so many families in distress, without knowing what happened to their beloved ones. It also casts a long shadow over many the fates of many human rights defenders and people belonging to minority groups.
The most distressing factor in this field of criminality is the overarching tendency of underreporting. We should all be alarmed by this and take this as our first point of reference in combat against this inhumane practice.
The cooperation of the governments with the international community and the civil society in this regard is the key to progress. It is vital that information about the location, number and health of the prisoners is available to families and the rest of the society.
Most important tool in combat against enforced disappearances is the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council during its first session in June 2006 and by the General Assembly in December of that same year. The Convention will enter into force after 20 countries ratify it and is thus not yet in force since the ratifications today come up to only 17 states.
The Convention is a ground breaking tool in protection of fundamental human rights and it will crucially strengthen Government’s capacities to prevent and eradicate disappearances. It is the first Convention to affirm that enforced disappearances constitute a crime against humanity when practiced in a widespread or systematic manner. It also obligates States to make the offence of enforced disappearance punishable by appropriate penalties. Most importantly, the entry into force of this Convention will significantly help the victims obtain their rights to justice and truth.
Thus, as the Chairwoman of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights, I call on all of the Governments to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance without delay and to take all steps in their power to address all disappearances, no matter where they occur in the world. In this regards, governments must also take steps to actively prevent these violations and all related forms of ill treatment from taking place.
While the enforced disappearances in the past was very often the result of internal conflicts, in recent years we have seen them reoccur in a different context, namely the fight against terrorism. Terrorism is indeed a real threat for many countries around the Mediterranean, but it should not be used as a pretext, or cannot in itself excuse these crimes. As regards Europe, there are still many questions unanswered concerning the role some of the European states played after 9/11 in the CIA operations that led to enforced disappearances in Europe and beyond., As we return to this issue in the Subcommittee on Human Rights, my aim is to once again put pressure in order to ensure that these allegations are investigated thoroughly and those responsible are prosecuted. It is a matter of coherence, to leave up to our own commitments, but also of justice. No crime of this scale must go unpunished and the European Union should be first in line to combat impunity of all kinds of crimes against humanity.
To conclude, I wish the Euromed Federation against Enforced Disappearances (FEMED) bon courage in their efforts in this regards and look forwards to a good cooperation with you in the future.