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Press Conference by Working Group on Disappearances
16 May 1997 -  The number of politically motivated disappearances worldwide was at least three times greater than official United Nations figures, the Chairman of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Ivan Tosevski, said this afternoon at a press conference at Headquarters.
The Working Group is composed of five experts who serve in their personal capacities. Joining Mr. Tosevski -- who is from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia -- were members Jonas Foli of Ghana, Diego Garcia-Sayan of Peru, and Manfred Nowak of Austria. (The fifth member of the Working Group is Agha Hilaly of Pakistan.) Mr. Foli is also a member of the Human Rights Investigative Commission to Eastern Zaire.
In most countries, citizens did not know of the existence of the Working Group and so could not inform it, Mr. Tosevski told correspondents. Beyond that, victims of torture and disappearance did not submit their cases to any independent body, for fear of reprisal.
Mr. Tosevski said the phenomena of disappearances was political in nature, and those who disappeared were usually the opponents of existing governments. However, the basic approach of the Working Group was not political, but was primarily humanitarian. It only sought to discover whether disappeared persons were dead or alive.
Although that humanitarian approach had enabled the Working Group to establish close links with most governments, that did not mean that most of its cases had been clarified. There were still serious problems with most of the governments concerned, and the number of disappeared persons on the Working Group's list was increasing. However, generally speaking, there were less disappearances today than there were 10 or 15 years ago. The challenge for the Working Group was in establishing contacts with governments to determine accurately the numbers of disappeared persons.
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