The UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances* says a new law against enforced disappearances in Lebanon can be a major breakthrough, and urges effective implementation to give victims and their families access to truth and justice.
The law, passed on 13 November 2018, establishes a commission to investigate enforced disappearances with the power to access and collect information, carry out exhumations and identifications of burial sites and hand over to relatives the remains of their loved ones. It also enshrines the “right to know” for all families without discrimination.
“This is a significant step forward that marks a real commitment by the State to fulfill its obligations and to shed light on the past, which may help bring truth and justice to the families of the disappeared,” said the experts from the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
“We are ready to assist with the effective implementation of the law, including through an official visit,” they said, noting that Lebanon had issued a standing invitation to all UN Special Procedures mandate holders since 17 March 2011.
“We also hope that the adoption of this law will be a prelude to the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the introduction in the criminal legislation of enforced disappearance as an autonomous crime of a continuous nature,” the experts concluded.
*The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea); other members are Ms. Houria Es-Slami (Morocco); Mr. Luciano Hazan (Argentina) and Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania).
The Working Group was established by the then UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.