The idea of a binding and effective treaty goes back 30 years. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, expressed his concern about the serious problem of the disappeared in Argentina and a colloquium held in Paris in 1981 urged the adoption of a specific convention on enforced disappearance.
The United Nations General Assembly has devoted particular attention to this odious phenomenon on many occasions. In 1978, in its resolution 33/173, it expressed concern over reports from various parts of the world relating to enforced or involuntary disappearances of persons. It requested the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to consider the question and to make appropriate recommendations. By resolution 20 (XXXVI) of 29 February 1980, the Commission on Human Rights decided to establish a working group of five independent experts to examine questions relevant to enforced or involuntary disappearances of persons. Since then, the mandate of the Working Group has been regularly renewed.
On 18 December 1992 the General Assembly, by resolution 47/133, proclaimed the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as a body of principles for all States.
On 9 June 1994, the OAS General Assembly approved the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, which entered into force on 28 March 1996. This first convention on enforced disappearances represented a significant development in human rights law because it recognizes that enforced disappearances is a continuous crime.
On 18 July 1998 the Rome Statute for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted and entered into force on 1 July 2002. It included, for the first time ever in international criminal law, enforced disappearances among the list of crimes against humanity “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population”
Before the creation of specific international instruments to address enforced disappearance, jurisprudence from international bodies, such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina, helped further normative principles relating to enforced disappearance.
In 2003, in view of the obvious gaps in international law and as Enforced disappearance has become a global problem and is not restricted to a specific region of the world, the UN Human Rights Commission set up an intergovernmental working group to draft a convention. Chaired by France’s ambassador Bernard Kessedjian, in 2005 the group finalised and adopted by consensus a definitive draft legal instrument against enforced disappearances. FIACAT, as other NGOs made technical comments within this "open-ended working group", and the active presence during the drafting of the associations of the families of the disappeared had an important influence on the final result.
After a lengthy period of preparation, the drafting and adoption of this complex treaty in the record time of four years testify to the commitment and determination of numerous non-governmental organisations and governments.
The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance has been adopted by the General Assembly of the UN on December 20th, 2006. It came into force on December 23th 2010 after the 20th ratification.
It includes for the first time in a treaty the right of any person not to be subjected to enforced disappearance.
The Convention recognizes the right of all the persons affected by enforced disappearance to know the truth about the circumstances of this crime, the progress and results of the investigation and the fate of the disappeared person.
States that ratify the Convention commit themselves to conduct investigations to locate the disappeared person, to prosecute those responsible and to ensure reparations for survivors and their families.