US will not sign a global treaty that outlaws enforced disappearances and allows victims’ families the right to learn the truth about what happened after the pact, after Bush administration rejected the UN sponsored treaty as the authorities would have to account for thousands of detainees who were abducted, detained and forcibly disappeared by the CIA.
The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances contains an absolute prohibition on the practice and calls on all States Parties to ensure that it is an offence under their domestic laws.
Significantly, it deems any widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearances to be a crime against humanity.
The advocacy group American Civil Liberties Union expressed disappointment and urged Congress to examine the government’s policies and practices that would have conflicted with the agreement and to shut down permanently all secret detention programs and facilities and end the practice of illegal kidnapping.
“Our government’s practice of kidnapping people off the streets and sending them to secret detention cells violates due process and core American values,” Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said. “This is the behavior we expect of repressive regimes and not from our government. The accord sought to bring an end to forced disappearances, used by dictatorships to secretly detain, arrest or kidnap individuals and then deny it occurred.”
In a speech to today’s ceremony in Paris marking the opening for formal signatures, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said the task now is to make sure the treaty is implemented as soon as possible.
“Far from being a tragic relic of past ‘dirty wars,’ this shameful practice still persists in all continents,” Ms. Arbour said. “This treaty closes a glaring gap in international human rights law by making explicit the prohibition on disappearances.”
The treaty was adopted by the General Assembly on 20 December, and sixty countries have so far signed it.
The convention affirms the right of victims – including families of those abducted – to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person and to claim reparation for the harm inflicted to them.
The treaty’s monitoring body will be entitled to receive requests for urgent action on individual cases, to conduct visits with the agreement of States parties concerned, and, in the situation of suspected widespread or systematic cases being practised in the territory under the jurisdiction of a State party, to urgently bring the matter before the General Assembly.
“We urge Congress to shine a bright light on our government’s use secret detention and rendition,” Fredrickson said. “The Bush administration should stop stonewalling congressional efforts to examine these abuses of basic due process and human rights. Congress must permanently shut down these secret programs and facilities.”