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New treaties: Against Enforced Disappearances and on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities

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Two important human rights conventions were opened this year for signature: The Convention Against Enforced Disappearances and the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. The first one has not been adopted only by three countries, while the second one is said to be the fastest negotiated treaty.

The Convention Against Enforced Disappearances

The Convention Against Enforced Disappearances was adopted in 2006 and opened for signature in February. Only three Asian countries have signed it so far, with no ratification: the convention needs to be put into force and recognised globally.

The work on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance started in December 1978 when the UN General Assembly, in a resolution, expressed its deep concern over “reports from various parts of the world relating to enforced or involuntary disappearances”. The General Assembly thereafter requested the Commission on Human Rights to consider the issue of enforced disappearances, with the view of making appropriate recommendations. Since its foundation in February 1980, the Working Group has worked on the issue.

In 2001, the Commission appointed Manfred Novak to examine the existing framework for the protection of persons from enforced disappearances. Also at the same time, an Intersessional Open-Ended Working Group was created, which met for the first time in 2003. This Working Group continued to hold two sessions each year until September 2005.

On 29 June 2006, the new UN Human Rights Council adopted the new Convention and on 13 November 2006, the Third Committee of the General Assembly adopted the text. Finally, on 20 December 2006, the text was adopted by the plenary of the General Assembly.

The Convention was opened for signature and signed by 57 Member States on 6 February 2007. So far, only three countries from Asia have signed the Convention: India, Japan, and Mongolia. None of these three countries have ratified the Convention.

The Convention will enter into force on the 30th day after the deposit with the United Nations of the 20th ratification or accession. Only three Member States have ratified the Convention so far: Albania, Argentina, and Mexico. There is a long way to go before this Convention enters into force and its norms and standards implemented globally.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol were adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 2006. They were opened for signature on 30 March 2007 and at least 81 Member States immediately signed the Convention, the highest number of signatures of any human rights convention on its opening day.

To date, there are now 120 signatories to the Convention, which includes 11 Member States from Asia: Bangladesh , Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam. However, only 14 Member States have so far ratified the Convention. In Asia, the only countries which have ratified the Convention and its Optional Protocol are Bangladesh (ratified on 30 November 2007) and India (ratified on 1 October 2007).

The primary aim of the Convention is to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others. The Convention is said to be the fastest negotiated human rights treaty, having been negotiated during only eight sessions of an Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly from 2002 to 2006.