Observing International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances: Demanding Justice and Raising Awareness

August 30 marks the observance of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, a poignant occasion dedicated to shedding light on the harrowing reality of enforced disappearance across the globe. Enforced disappearance entails the apprehension, confinement, abduction, or other forms of deprivation of freedom, executed either by state agents or individuals/groups with the approval, backing, or complaisance of the state. It is followed by an intentional refusal to acknowledge the individual’s incarceration or to divulge information regarding their fate or whereabouts, thereby removing them from the protective realm of the law.

This grave violation of human rights transcends its implications. It constitutes a crime against humanity and a war crime, inflicting a form of torture and subjecting victims to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The brunt of enforced disappearance is borne by millions around the world, cutting across all demographics and nationalities. Men, women, and children fall prey to this sinister practice, executed by governments, armed factions, and various actors.

Yet, it is the families of the disappeared who share the pain of victims. Condemned to an unending state of uncertainty and dread, they grapple with the unknown whereabouts of their loved ones and the circumstances surrounding their vanishing. Often stripped of access to justice and reparations, these families endure an excruciating plight.

The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances serves as a powerful platform to amplify awareness about this crime and echo the call for justice for the victims and their bereaved families. Furthermore, it serves as an impetus to urge governments to proactively thwart enforced disappearances and ensure that those accountable are held responsible.

On this day, the global community rallies together to achieve several goals:

  1. Elevate consciousness about the heinous crime of enforced disappearance.
  2. Advocate fervently for justice on behalf of victims and their families.
  3. Implore governments to adopt preventive measures against enforced disappearances.
  4. Extend support to organizations that tirelessly work with the families left in limbo.

Indeed, the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances emerges as a poignant reminder of those who have endured this anguish and a fervent call to action against it. United, we strive to eradicate this scourge from our societies and secure justice for the afflicted. This annual commemoration, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010, holds profound significance, resonating the world over. Its chosen date, August 30, memorializes Jonas Burgos, a Filipino human rights advocate who fell victim to enforced disappearance in 2007, encapsulating the grim realities this day seeks to rectify.

As underscored by the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances—ratified by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006—the imperative of ending enforced disappearance and ensuring justice reverberates globally. The convention delineates enforced disappearance as a deliberate act executed by state agents or actors with the backing of the state, involving detention, abduction, or confinement. The subsequent refusal to disclose the individual’s status or whereabouts is enacted with the intent to remove them from legal protection.