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Enforced Disappearances: NGO Efforts to Continue

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Latin America, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on August 30, 2020 at 10:14 AM

By René Wadlow

August 30 is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. The Day highlights the United Nations (UN) General Assembly Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, Resolution 47/133 of December 18, 1992.

In a good number of countries, there are State-sponsored “death squads” – persons affiliated to the police or to the intelligence agencies who kill “in the dark of the night” – unofficially. These deaths avoid a trial which might attract attention. A shot in the back of the head is faster. In many cases, the bodies of those killed are destroyed. Death is suspected but not proved. Many family members hope for a return. In addition to governments, nongovernmental armed groups and criminal gangs have the same practices.

Also to be considered among the “disappeared” are the secret imprisonment of persons at places unknown to their relatives or to legal representatives. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has a Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, created in 1980, which has registered some 46,000 cases of people who disappeared under unknown circumstances.

Disappearances was one of the first issues to be raised, largely by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) when the UN Secretariat’s Center for Human Rights with a new director, Theo van Boven, moved from New York to Geneva in 1977. After seizing power in 1976, Argentina’s military rulers set out to kill opposition figures and at the same time to weaken the UN’s human rights machinery in case the UN objected. The Argentinean ambassadors to the UN used delaying tactics in order to give the military time to kill as many suspected “subversives” as possible.

In 1980, a group of Argentinian mothers of the disappeared came to Geneva and some entered the public gallery and silently put on their symbolic white head scarves. (1)

Theo van Boven, March 22, 1983 – (C) Rob C. Croes / Anefo – Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Today, the issue of the disappeared and of the secretly imprisoned continues, sometimes on a large scale such as in Syria. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the only non-governmental organization with the recognized mandate to deal with specific prisoners, enabling a minimum level of contact and inspection of their treatment. However, the mandate functions only when the prisoners are known, not kept in “black holes” or killed.

The Association of World Citizens stresses that much more needs to be done in terms of prevention, protection, and search for disappeared persons. On August 30, we will reaffirm our dedication to this effort.

Note:
1) See Iain Guest, Behind the Disappearances: Argentina’s Dirty War Against Human Rights and the United Nations (Philadelphia; University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990) Iain Guest was the Geneva UN correspondent for The Guardian and the International Herald Tribune. He had access to Argentinian confidential documents once the military left power. He interviewed many diplomats and NGO representatives active in Geneva-based human rights work. This book is probably the most detailed look at how human rights efforts are carried out at the UN Geneva-based human rights bodies.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

  1. Can’t open comments or LIKE.. but great story!!

    *Albert Einstein when asked by a reporter, “how does it feel to be the smartest man in the world..?” Einstein replied, “I don’t know, you should ask Nikola Tesla!” *

    On Sun, Aug 30, 2020 at 2:45 PM Association of World Citizens wrote:

    > Association of World Citizens posted: ” By René Wadlow August 30 is the > International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. The Day > highlights the United Nations (UN) General Assembly Declaration on the > Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, Resolution 47/133 > of De” >

  2. […] Ms. Kalesnikova ripped her passport so that she could not enter Ukraine and be exiled. Other members of the opposition have “disappeared”, no doubt held by security forces in undisclosed locations. The AWC has specifically highlighted the abuses of such “disappearances” and the need for continuing efforts against such abuses: https://awcungeneva.com/2020/08/30/enforced-disappearances-ngo-efforts-to-continue/. […]

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