International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances - August 31st 2020
Enforced disappearances is a practice that has grown in
frequency over the years, used as a strategy to spread terror
or as a means to silence those considered as a “nuisance.”
It has become an act that exists in a wide variety of contexts
and is no longer limited to a specific region. It is commonly
seen in internal conflicts, particularly used to undermine
and/or repress political opponents or silence human right
An enforced disappearance is defined by three cumulative
1. Deprivation of liberty against the will of the person;
2. Involvement of government officials, at least by
3. Refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or
concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the
Thus, enforced disappearance is the act of forcing an
individual to disappear, insinuating the detention or
abduction of said person, followed by the refusal to
acknowledge the whereabouts or fate of the individual.
Furthermore, the Rome Statutes of the ICC of 1998 affirms that enforced disappearance constitutes a “crime against humanity”, a crime that is not subjected to a statute of limitations. Correspondingly, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights stressed the importance that the State adopt all necessary measures to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible, to locate the victims’ whereabouts and provide fair and adequate reparation.
Acknowledging that enforced disappearance undermines the respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms and according to resolution AES/47/133 of 18 December 1992, following the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance by the UN General Assembly in 2010, the UN officially declared the annual observance of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on the 30th August.
The element of uncertainty differentiates enforced disappearances from other crimes, as the victims families are put through psychological torture, unaware if their loved one has truly disappeared, making mourning the loss impossible and prolonging suffering. Hence, the cruel act of forced disappearances not only affects the victim but also directly affects their close relatives as well as their communities, who become secondary victims of this crime.
The terrifying growth in frequency of this phenomenon in many countries across the globe prompted the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to launch an initiative in 2017 aiming to double the number of accessions to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance by 2022.
Commemorating International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance provides a platform to highlight the seriousness of enforced disappearance and the immense damage it has on social and political development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented obstacles that have left many communities vulnerable. Thus, the Geneva Institute for Human Rights calls on the international community to act swiftly and unify efforts to prevent enforced disappearances. Moreover, the Institute urges states to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and encourages State Parties to expedite the procedures for submitting the declarations provided for in Articles 31 and 32 of the Convention, related to the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive individual complaints and complaints, strengthen national framework for protection against enforced disappearance provided for in the Convention with the adoption of the necessary legislative measures.
Finally, in accordance with Article 1(2) of the Convention, the Geneva Institute for Human Rights urges states to accept the visits of and actively interact with the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, in addition to consider enforced disappearance as a crime in national laws, prosecuting violators of this law, and granting reparations, taking into account social and gender issues.