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U.N. Group Reports 400 ‘Disappearances’ In 1988

February 4, 1989

GENEVA (AP) _ About 400 people were reported missing last year in new cases of ″enforced or involuntary disappearances,″ mostly in Latin America, a U.N. report said Friday.

It said the number of cases nearly doubled compared to 1987, and the number of countries where disappearances were reported also rose.

Most of the alleged disappearances, reported by human rights groups, were linked to a country’s authorities.

The report, compiled by a five-member working group for the current annual session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, cited evidence of disappearances in 15 of the 44 countries examined.

It voiced special concern about disappearances of women and children, but gave no breakdown.

The working group asked the governments concerned for comment on the latest cases, but most of them remain unresolved, the report said.

Peru’s 170 cases topped the list of alleged disappearances reported last year. Also figuring prominently were Colombia with 70 people reported missing, Guatemala, 53; El Salvador, 40; and the Philippines, 39.

It said Argentina had the largest number of outstanding cases, 3,387, but it noted no disappearances have been reported there since 1983.

The report said disappearances increased in Peru because of the government’s fight against two guerrilla groups, Shining Path and MRTA, and its imposition of a state of emergency and military administration in about 30 provinces.

It quoted people who ″reappeared″ after arrest as implicating Peruvian army, police and security forces.

In Guatemala, evidence indicates that disappearances have continued despite recent democratic government elections, the report said. Peasants, religious activists and clergymen, and trade union leaders were most often reported abducted or arrested. The report blamed soldiers, members of paramilitary groups or security services, and armed men in civilian clothes.

Most of those reported missing in the Philippines are young men in rural areas who were arrested as part of the government’s fight against the left- wing New People’s Army, the report said.

Laws in most of the countries investigated are inadequate for quickly determining the whereabouts of disappeared people, the report said.

The working group, chaired by Yugoslavian expert Ivan Tosevski, appealed to governments for sparing use of emergency powers in times of civil conflict.

It criticized Afghanistan, Angola, Chile, Guinea, Iran, Nepal and the Seychelles for failing to reply to allegations of disappearances.

The working group said it has compiled evidence of about 17,000 enforced disappearances since it began issuing annual reports in 1980.

A separate report by the U.N. commission’s special investigator on religious intolerance Friday singled out positive developments in the Soviet Union.

It cited large imports of Bibles for the commemoration of 1,000 years of Christianity in Russia, early release or reduced prison sentences for jailed believers and moves toward legal reform.

But the report said the worldwide persistence of many different forms of religious discrimination, often by governments, ″hardly inspires optimism.″

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