General Comment on Enforced Disappearance as a Continuous Crime





2011

General Comment on Enforced Disappearance as a Continuous Crime

United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/GeneralComments.aspx
  1. Enforced disappearances are prototypical continuous acts. The act begins at the time of the abduction and extends for the whole period of time that the crime is not complete, that is to say until the State acknowledges the detention or releases information pertaining to the fate or whereabouts of the individual.
  2. Even though the conduct violates several rights, including the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to liberty and security of the person and the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and also violates or constitutes a grave threat to the right to life, the Working Group considers that an enforced disappearance is a unique and consolidated act, and not a combination of acts. Even if some aspects of the violation may have been completed before the entry into force of the relevant national or international instrument, if other parts of the violation are still continuing, until such time as the victim’s fate or whereabouts are established, the matter should be heard, and the act should not be fragmented.
  3. Thus, when an enforced disappearance began before the entry into force of an instrument or before the specific State accepted the jurisdiction of the competent body, the fact that the disappearance continues after the entry into force or the acceptance of the jurisdiction gives the institution the competence and jurisdiction to consider the act of enforced disappearance as a whole, and not only acts or omissions imputable to the State that followed the entry into force of the relevant legal instrument or the acceptance of the jurisdiction.
  4. The Working Group considers, for instance, that when a State is recognized as responsible for having committed an enforced disappearance that began before the entry into force of the relevant legal instrument and which continued after its entry into force, the State should be held responsible for all violations that result from the enforced disappearance, and not only for violations that occurred after the entry into force of the instrument.
  5. Similarly, in criminal law, the Working Group is of the opinion that one consequence of the continuing character of enforced disappearance is that it is possible to convict someone for enforced disappearance on the basis of a legal instrument that was enacted after the enforced disappearance began, notwithstanding the fundamental principle of non retroactivity. The crime cannot be separated and the conviction should cover the enforced disappearance as a whole.
  6. As far as possible, tribunals and other institutions ought to give effect to enforced disappearance as a continuing crime or human right violation for as long as all elements of the crime or the violation are not complete.
  7. Where a statute or rule of procedure seems to negatively affect the continuous violation doctrine, the competent body ought to construe such a provision as narrowly as possible so that a remedy is provided or persons prosecuted for the perpetration of the disappearance.
  8. In the same spirit, reservations that exclude the competence of such a body for acts or omissions that occurred before the entry into force of the relevant legal instrument or the acceptance of the institution’s competence should be interpreted so not to create an obstacle to hold a State responsible for an enforced disappearance that continues after this.”