Paris, 6 February 2007 Press release

State Secretary Hans Winkler signs International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance


Paris, 6 February 2007 - "The enforced disappearance of people is one of the worst human rights violations. Neither war nor political instability or any other public emergency may ever serve as justification for the enforced disappearance of persons," said State Secretary Hans Winkler at today’s signing of the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The Convention defines the enforced disappearance of persons as a human rights violation for the first time. "Austria has always been in favour of strengthening international human rights protection. This Convention is now closing a big gap in international human rights legislation," stated Winkler. "For families and relatives the uncertainty concerning the whereabouts of a person is sometimes more stressful and unbearable than the certain knowledge of the person’s death. Often the disappearance of a person is also connected with the risk of the person being tortured or even killed," Winkler continued.

Austria is among the first states to sign this human rights convention. The convention sets forth obligations for states concerning the prohibition, punishment and prevention of enforced disappearance as well as the rights of victims to receive information and compensation.

In this context Winkler explicitly stressed that in combating terrorism fundamental and human rights had to be respected and complied with without restriction. "Persons in custody must have a right to effective legal remedies as well as the right to communicate with persons of their choice," said the State Secretary. The Convention regards both disappeared persons and their relatives as victims of enforced disappearance.

On the sidelines of the signing ceremony Winkler also conducted a number of bilateral talks with African foreign ministers, in particular to canvass their support for Austria’s application for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council in the years 2009-2010.

Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs

State Secretary's Office

Katharina Swoboda

Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469