UNITED NATIONS - The practice of enforced disappearances perseveres in many countries, a group of UN experts warned Friday, following their review of more than 400 cases spanning 31 nations.

At the conclusion of its 98th session held in Geneva, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances expressed their “deepest concern” that 20 years since the adoption of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the practice of vanishing people was still continuing unabated around the world, according to a news release issued at UN Headquarters in New York.

 “Enforced disappearances continue to occur in many countries, often in a persistent manner,” the UN experts said.

The Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1992. Among its articles, it states that ‘any act of enforced disappearance is an offence to human dignity’, and it condemns such actions “as a grave and flagrant violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The Working Group was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It seeks to establish a channel of communication between the families and the governments concerned to ensure cases are investigated.

In their news release, the experts also drew attention to a two-day event which opened their annual session on October 30 and was devoted to the impact of enforced disappearances on women, as well as on the role of women as actors of change.

In addition, they underlined their session’s focus on the issue of reparations, methods of work, past and potential country visits, and specific country situations, particularly in the context of obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration.

The Working Group examined cases concerning Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Georgia, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kenya, Laos, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Pakistan, Peru, Russian Federation, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.

The UN experts also finalised and approved their 2012 annual report which will be presented at the Human Rights Council’s 22nd session in March 2013.

The Working Groups’ five members are Olivier de Frouville from France, who is also the Chair-Rapporteur, Ariel Dulitzky from Argentina, Jasminka Dzumhur from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Osman El-Hajje from Lebanon, and Jeremy Sarkin from South Africa.