By Sal Fazal
On International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the CCAT would like to raise awareness of the challenges faced by victims of enforced disappearances and celebrate the achievements of the international community to help such victims. Enforced disappearance usually occurs when a state or a political organisation abducts a person or a group of people and then refuses to share information about them. Due to this, the victims are not protected by international law. This often leads to the victim being subjected to other human rights abuses, like modern day slavery, trafficking, sexual assault and murder.
The UN General Assembly, by its resolution 65/209 in 2010, expressed grave concerns about the increase in forced or involuntary disappearances across the world. This day also aims to highlight the plight of witnesses of disappearances or relatives of persons who have disappeared as they often face ill treatment, harassment and intimidation. The family members of victims of enforced disappearances often face a great struggle in their search for truth and justice. By the same resolution, the general assembly also adopted the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances and declared to observe the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances for the first time on 30th August 2011.
Enforced disappearance is when people are abducted and their whereabouts remain unknown to their families and their legal representatives. According to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, proclaimed by UN’s general assembly in its resolution 47/133 on 18th December 1992, an enforced disappearance occurs when,
“persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.”
Around the world, enforced disappearance has become a means to spread terror and unrest within a region. Enforced disappearance are often used as a means of political repression of opponents by various states. The states often refuse to share information regarding the victims of enforced disappearances citing counter-terror activities. Globally, human right activists also face ongoing harassment along with the families, friends and legal representatives of the victims.
The cases of enforced disappearances can be reported directly to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances which is an initiative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Anyone can submit the form to the working group whose primary task is to assist families in getting information on the whereabouts of the missing person.
Opportunities to get more Involved:
Due to enforced disappearances being carried out by governments in every region, the UN launched in initiative in 2017 to double the number of ratifications of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances by 2022. As an individual, we can all take action and stand up for the disappeared and become human rights champions. To find out more, please click here.
The international community strongly condemns secret imprisonment. On this day, the CCAT would like to raise public awareness about the work of a number of international bodies and organisations, like Amnesty International (AI), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). We would like to request people to volunteer and donate to such organisations who are involved in supporting not only the victims of enforced disappearances but also their friends and families. Individuals can get more involved in raising awareness about enforced disappearances by joining the conversation on social media and using #EnforcedDisappearance.
United Nations. International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Retrieved on August 27, 2021 from https://www.un.org/en/observances/victims-enforced-disappearance/message
United Nations. General Assembly, 18th December 1992. Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (resolution 47/133) Retrieved August 27, 2021 from https://undocs.org/A/RES/47/133
United Nations. General Assembly, 20th March 2011. International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (resolution 65/209). Retrieved August 27, 2021 from https://undocs.org/A/RES/65/209.