What is “enforced disappearance”?
According to Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance : "’enforced disappearance" is considered to be 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."
Individuals, as a rule in civilian clothes and armed, remove an opponent or human rights activist to an unknown place by force and without apparent motive. When the victim’s loved ones try to ascertain his or her whereabouts, the authorities either ignore their entreaties or open an inquiry which they know will lead nowhere or which ends in the exoneration of the suspects. According to personal testimony, the victims of such “disappearances” are most often tortured.
A worldwide phenomenon
Although it is difficult to estimate its exact extent, this practice, typical of Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s, is widespread across the world today.
Since its establishment in 1980, 50 000 cases which have remained unsolved or not been closed, concerning 80 countries, have been referred to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
The suffering of families
Victims’ families sometimes endure years of uncertainty as to the fate of their loved ones, and are therefore unable to grieve for them. The representations they make to the authorities to shed light on a disappearance expose them to reprisals from the authorities themselves or from the armed groups responsible for that crime. Hence the families become victims as well.
The International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED)
The International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances is a global network of organisations of families of disappeared and NGOs working in a non-violent manner against the practice of enforced disappearances at the local, national and international levels.
FIACAT is a member of the Coalition’s steering committee since its creation in 2007.