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International Day of the Disappeared

Day of the Disappeared
30 August 2014 -- The International Day of the Disappeared, also known as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, draws attention to the fate of individuals abducted or detained by agents of the state (or those acting with support of the state), and held in locations concealed from their relatives and legal representatives. Forced disappearances violate fundamental human rights, such as the right to be exempt from arbitrary arrest and detention and the right to liberty and security. They inflict terrible suffering upon victims and their loved ones, some of whom will never learn the fate of their family member, partner or friend.

The initiative for the Day came in 1983 in the midst of an alarming rise of disappearances by authoritarian regimes in Latin America. From the 1970s through the 1990s, a total of several hundred thousand people in countries such as Guatemala, Argentina and Chile were disappeared. The Latin American Federation of Associates for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (FEDEFAM), an association of delegates from associated member states and regional groups working against secret imprisonment and forced disappearances, led the campaign for the Day.

In recent years, activists, NGOs, courts and international organizations have increasingly sought to prevent enforced disappearances and obtain retroactive justice for victims. In 2006, the United Nations adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED). Yet disappearances remain all too frequent. As of 2012, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances estimates that at least 42,889 people worldwide have been forcibly disappeared with fates unknown.

Enforced disappearances have been very prevalent in Syria over the past years. Human rights groups estimate that anywhere between 10,000 and 120,000 Syrians have been forcibly disappeared by security forces. Activist groups worldwide continue to urge states to ratify ICCPED (as of August 2013, only 40 have done so) and call for truth and justice for victims past and present.

Sources: Amnesty International, the United Nations


Selected learning materials

Enforced disappearance (Asian Human Rights Commission)
This lesson introduces the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know (Roy Gutman and David Rieff (eds.)
This book was published on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary—in August 1999—of the Geneva Conventions, with the aim of encouraging public knowledge of the principles of conduct in war. It consists of three types of articles. The heart of the law, and of this book, are the grave breaches, or serious war crimes, delineated in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the First Additional Protocol of 1977, including disappearance.

International and regional mechanisms to prevent forced disappearances:

Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (1992)

- Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons (1996)

- International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2006)


Useful links

International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances

International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances (United Nations)

Latin American Federation of Associates for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (FEDEFAM)

Missing persons (International Committee of the Red Cross)

UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Links to other organisations involved in advocacy against disappearances

 

 

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Citizens and Advocacy (Advanced Course)

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