Joint Statement on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances 2023

As delivered by the United Kingdom on behalf of 12 countries at the 1438th Permanent Council Meeting on 8 September 2023.

Mr Chair, I have the honour of delivering this statement on behalf of Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, Ukraine, and my own country, the United Kingdom.

30 August marked the annual International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. As such, at today’s Permanent Council, we would like to state our strong condemnation of enforced disappearances. We stand with the victims of enforced disappearances, as well as their families and loved ones, from across the world, including those in Ukraine. We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to preventing and ending this serious human rights violation. In addition, we recall and reiterate the commitments we made in adopting the 2020 Tirana Ministerial Council Decision on the Prevention and Eradication of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Enforced disappearance is an instrument of terror and fear. Victims of enforced disappearance are often tortured or killed. Those who survive this abhorrent practice, as well as their loved ones, are often traumatised, forced to live with deep physical or psychological scars. Mr Chair, enforced disappearance is inexcusable and despicable, wherever and whenever it takes place. Today, as we make this statement, Russia continues to use enforced disappearance as a tool in its war of aggression against Ukraine. Confronted with this terror, the Ukrainian people continue to show remarkable resilience and strength.

Since 2014, Russian authorities have systematically targeted and detained members of local communities in a cynical attempt to divide and repress the Ukrainian population. In the last 18 months alone, the UN has documented over 600 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention of civilians by Russian armed forces. Families are denied information on the whereabouts and wellbeing of their relatives, and national authorities are not notified of detentions, despite Russia’s obligations under international law.

We unreservedly condemn the actions of the Russian authorities and call for them to engage with the families of their victims. Russia must confirm who it is holding, where, and why. Russia must, as any party to an international conflict must, comply with its obligation to grant unhindered access to the ICRC and other appropriate humanitarian organisations. Russia must cease committing enforced disappearances and release all of those who have been detained in contravention of international law.

In closing, we jointly reaffirm our commitment to combat this heinous practice. We stand in full solidarity with the victims and survivors of enforced disappearances, as well as their loved ones, in Ukraine and around the world.