Today, August 30, marks the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, a day to remember and honor those who have been abducted, tortured, and killed by state agents or other groups, and to demand the truth and justice for their families and communities.
Enforced disappearance is a grave violation of human rights that affects hundreds of thousands of people around the world. It is often used as a method of repression, terror, and silencing dissent, sometimes under the pretext of countering crime or terrorism. It deprives the victims of their rights and dignity, and leaves their loved ones in a state of anguish and uncertainty. It also undermines the rule of law and the foundations of democracy.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2006, and declared August 30 as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances in 2010. The Convention defines enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”
The Convention obliges States to prevent enforced disappearance, to search for the victims, to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators, and to provide reparation to the victims and their families. It also establishes a Committee on Enforced Disappearances, a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention by States parties. As of today, 63 States have ratified or acceded to the Convention.
However, many States have not yet joined the Convention, and many others have not fully complied with their obligations under it.
On this International Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on all States to ratify the Convention and to work with the UN Committee and Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. He said: “Together, we can and we must end all enforced disappearances.”
The UN also urged all stakeholders to join forces to combat impunity for enforced disappearance, to support the victims and their families, and to raise awareness about this heinous practice. The UN also expressed its solidarity with civil society organizations, human rights defenders, lawyers, witnesses, journalists, and others who face threats and harassment for their work on this issue.
The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to end this crime against humanity, and to ensure that no one is left behind in our quest for justice and accountability.