Question of Palestine home
15 January 1996
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Item 8 (c) of the provisional agenda
QUESTION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL PERSONS
SUBJECTED TO ANY FORM OF DETENTION OR IMPRISONMENT
QUESTION OF ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES
Report of the Working Group on Enforced
or Involuntary Disappearances
* In view of its length, the present document is being issued in the
original language only, the Conference Services Division of the United Nations
Office at Geneva having insufficient capacity to translate documents that
greatly exceed the 32-page limit recommended by the General Assembly (see
Commission resolution 1993/94, para. 1).
1. The present report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/38, entitled "Question of enforced disappearances".
2. During the year under review, the Working Group continued to carry out the activities it has undertaken since its establishment. Its original role, which it has described in previous reports, is to act as a channel of communication between families of the disappeared persons and the Governments concerned, with a view to ensuring that sufficiently documented and clearly identified individual cases are investigated and the whereabouts of the disappeared persons clarified. Since its inception, the Working Group has analysed thousands of cases of disappearance and other information received from Governments and non-governmental organizations, individuals and other sources of information from all over the world in order to ascertain whether such material falls under the Working Group’s mandate and contains the required elements; entered cases into its database; transmitted those cases to the Governments concerned, requesting them to carry out investigations and to inform the group about their results; forwarded the Governments’ replies to relatives or other sources; followed up investigations carried out by the Governments concerned, as well as the inquiries made by the relatives or other agencies or organizations; maintained a considerable correspondence with Governments and the sources of information in order to obtain details on the cases and the investigations; and examined allegations of a general nature concerning specific countries with regard to the phenomenon of disappearances.
/ Since its creation in 1980, the Working Group has submitted a report to the Commission annually, starting at the Commission’s thirty-seventh session. The document symbols of the last 14 reports are as follows: E/CN.4/1435 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1492 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1983/14; CN.4/1984/21 and Add.1 and 2; E/CN.4/1985/15 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1986/18 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1987/15 and Corr.1 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1988/19 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1989/18 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1990/13; E/CN.4/1991/20 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1992/18 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1993/25 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1994/26 and Corr.1 and 2 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1995/36.
II. INFORMATION CONCERNING ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES
IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES REVIEWED BY THE WORKING GROUP
275. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted one newly reported case of disappearance to the Government of Israel and considered clarified one case in which it was reported that the body of the person concerned, a Palestinian living in the West Bank who was believed to have been detained by the Israeli security forces, had been found.
276. The one other case transmitted in the past reportedly occurred in 1992 in Jerusalem and concerns a man who allegedly did not return home from work. He is believed to be detained in a prison in Tel Aviv.
277. The case transmitted in 1995 concerns a Palestinian who was reportedly arrested in 1971 on the day a bomb had exploded in Gaza. Although he was allegedly seen in detention, his whereabouts have remained unknown ever since.
278. During the period under review, no information was received from the Government of Israel with respect to either of these cases. The Working Group is, therefore, unable to report on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons.
289. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 30 cases to the Government of Lebanon, the majority of which reportedly occurred between 1982 and 1983.
290. The majority of the 279 cases of disappearances reported to the Working Group in the past occurred in 1982 and 1983 in the context of the Lebanese civil war. Those responsible for the disappearances are said to have belonged to the Phalangist Militia, the Lebanese Army or its security forces; in some cases, the Israeli Army was also reportedly involved in the arrest, together with one of the other forces mentioned above. Most of the detentions occurred in Beirut and its suburbs. Certain reports indicated that the arrests were made by armed men in civilian clothes operating from vehicles. In a number of cases, the missing person was reportedly arrested and taken away from the Sabra and Chatila camps in September 1982. In some cases which reportedly occurred in 1984, 1985 and 1987, the arrested persons were foreign nationals who were abducted in Beirut. In some of these cases, religious groups such as the "Islamic Holy War" later claimed responsibility for the abductions.
291. Most of the cases submitted to the Working Group in 1995 also occurred in the context of the Lebanese civil war, as described in the above paragraph. In a few cases, the missing persons were reportedly transferred to and detained in the Syrian Arab Republic. Several disappearances allegedly took place at Lebanese Army check-points on the east/west border of Beirut. In one case, the disappearance reportedly occurred at a check-point controlled by the Syrian Army. Another case which occurred in 1985 concerns that of a merchant who was allegedly abducted from his car while travelling from Tripoli to his residence in the mountains, an area which was at that time under Syrian control. It is believed that the missing person was later detained in Damascus. A more recent case, which took place in 1992, concerns a member of the political bureau of the Phalangist party, who was allegedly abducted in front of his home, said to be in an area under the control of Syrian troops, by a group of armed men in civilian clothes.
292. During the period under review, the Working Group received information from the Government of Lebanon, in which it stated inter alia, that
"... from 1975 to 1990, Lebanon’s situation was such that the State was not able to exercise full control over national territory. In these circumstances, numerous transgressions and breaches of human rights occurred, not least the disappearance of several persons on Lebanese territory. The successive investigations carried out by the competent authorities have, unfortunately, been fruitless.
"Thanks to the Taif Agreement of 1989 and to the ensuing national recovery, the State had regained legal and military jurisdiction over its territory, with the exception of the Israeli-occupied region of South Lebanon. The Israeli occupation of South Lebanon made it physically impossible for the Lebanese State to conduct investigations in this region, where there was a strong possibility that some of the persons in question might be found. Similarly, the liberation of Lebanese nationals abducted and detained in Israeli prisons and in the Israeli-controlled Khiam detention camp could shed light on the fate of numerous persons currently presumed missing.
"It followed that, for the above-mentioned reasons, the enforced or involuntary disappearance of a number of persons on Lebanese soil could not be ascribed to the Lebanese State."
293. The Working Group wishes again to remind the Government of Lebanon of its continuing responsibility to undertake all requested investigations, until the fate of the missing persons is fully elucidated. In this respect, it has emphasized the applicability of article 7 of the Declaration to the particular circumstances which affected Lebanon at the time of the above disappearances.
DECISIONS ON INDIVIDUAL CASES TAKEN BY
THE WORKING GROUP DURING 1995