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RSF calls for universal ratification of International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

(RSF/IFEX) - 30 August 2011 - As the world marks the International Day of the Disappeared today, Reporters Without Borders notes that many countries are still violating international law on this matter, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which the UN General Assembly adopted in 2006.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the universal ratification of this convention, which has so far been signed by 91 countries and ratified by 29. Combating enforced disappearance is vital in the struggle against dictatorships and arbitrary rule.

Enforced disappearance includes both secret imprisonment and secret house arrest, in which the families of the victims are denied any information about their fate or where they are being held. It is a form of abduction and sometimes ends in murder.

It is a radical method of oppression in which human rights defenders, opposition activists, free speech activists and independent journalists are removed from society because they are often on the front line of the struggle against authoritarian regimes. Not satisfied with simply censoring calls for freedom and justice, dictators target those who make the calls.

Enforced disappearances, which contravene international law and often national laws of the countries themselves, must be condemned firmly. Without an effective struggle against this evil, without binding measures that require respect for the basic legal rules on arrest and detention, any improvement in fundamental freedoms is impossible. The widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance is a crime against humanity. The prosecution of those responsible should be a priority.

Article 2 of the convention defines "enforced disappearance" as "the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law."

Iran and China have turned enforced disappearance into a favoured method of censoring free speech. The uprisings in Libya and Syria have led to extra-judicial arrests of many journalists. Mexico has many cases of unsolved disappearances of journalists. The inhumane prison conditions in Eritrea, a small country forgotten by the international community, must be condemned. And finally, disappearances are also common in Pakistan, the world's most dangerous country for journalists.

Click here to read the full press release, which highlights several key cases

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