30 August 2009A group of United Nations independent experts have highlighted the growing number of enforced disappearances worldwide, a terrible practice that it says remains underreported and has a particular impact on women and children. In a statement to mark the International Day of the Disappeared, observed on 30 August, the UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances noted that it has dealt with over 50,000 cases since it was established in 1980. But the practice “still remains severely underreported, particularly in certain regions of the world,” said the Group’s Chairperson, Jeremy Sarkin. In addition, while enforced disappearance affects many people worldwide, it has a particular impact on women and children, according to the five-member Group, which noted that women often bear the brunt of the economic hardships that accompany a disappearance. It added that when women are victims of disappearance themselves, they are particularly vulnerable to sexual and other forms of violence. Also, the disappearance of a child, or the loss of a parent as a consequence of enforced disappearance, is a serious violation of the rights of the child. The Group voiced its concern at the measures being taken by Governments while countering terrorism and the implications for enforced disappearances, and stressed that arrests committed during military operations, arbitrary detentions and extraordinary renditions “can amount to enforced disappearances.” It also called once again on States that have not signed and/or ratified the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance to do so as soon as possible. “Its entry into force will help strengthen Governments’ capacities to reduce the number of disappearances and it will bolster the hopes and the demands for justice and truth by victims and their families,” stated the Group. In addition to helping relatives ascertain the fate of their loved ones, the Working Group also acts as a conduit between the families and Governments concerned.