International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances (2021)
According to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, proclaimed by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/133 of 18 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, (...) 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."
The deeply disturbing phenomenon of enforced disappearances, often used as a strategy to instill fear, can be characterized as a multiple violation of fundamental human rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty as well as the right to recognition as a person before the law.
In response to the growing number of disappearances and continued impunity of the perpetrators, on the 21st of December 2010, the UN General Assembly assigned the 30th of August as International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, by its resolution 65/209.
It must be noted that the inhuman systematic and widespread practice of enforced disappearances does not only affect the victim but the relatives of the disappeared individual, as a result of the uncertainty and/or the authorities refusal to disclose information. Similarly, the feeling of insecurity generated by this crime extends to the communities of the individual and society as a whole.
The observance of the International Day of Enforced Disappearance provides the opportunity to raise awareness on the heinous crime of enforced disappearances, in conflict and post conflict situations, as well as mobilize the support needed to combat the growing phenomenon and ensure every individuals right to truth, justice and reparation.
Particularly considering that the direct or indirect involvement in enforced disappearance is a common practice in various countries around the world most often observed in dictatorial regimes and situations of extreme violence, the celebration of this day encourages concerted and united efforts of governments, national and regional humanitarian organizations to ensure that effective legislative, administrative and judicial measures are implemented to prevent and eliminate the practice of enforced disappearance, as well as ensure that those responsible for such a crime are held to account.
Within that framework, the Geneva Institute for Human Rights calls on countries to criminalize the act of enforced disappearance in national legislation and set various legal and policy frameworks intended to establish criminal responsibility for those directly or indirectly involved in the crime. This does not only demonstrate the political will of governments, it will aid in attending to pending cases as well as investigating and prosecuting those responsible for future disappearances accordingly.
The Institute further suggests that states establish mechanisms that can promptly receive and address cases of enforced disappearance, under the responsibility of authorities independent of the institutions to which the alleged perpetrators belong to or may be associated with. These mechanisms should be empowered to initiate prompt and effective judicial investigations, protect all persons involved in the investigations against ill-treatment or intimidation, provide rehabilitation, as well as guarantee to try the alleged perpetrators before ordinary courts, without bias.
Finally, the Institute for Human Rights stresses on the importance of ensuring the independence and impartiality of investigations. Every State must fulfil their national and international obligation to respect, protect and fulfil human rights by preventing enforced disappearances and fulfilling their duty to investigate and prosecute grave human rights violations accordingly.