Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

30 August 2007

Whereabouts unknown - thousands still missing worldwide

Whereabouts unknown - thousands still missing worldwide

world-disappearances-20070830.jpgTo “disappear” is to vanish, to cease to be, to be lost. But the “disappeared” have not simply vanished. Someone, somewhere, knows what has happened to them. Someone is responsible.

Enforced disappearances are not a thing of the past. They continue all over the world – in Algeria, Colombia, Nepal, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, the former Yugoslavia – to name but a few countries. The USA, sometimes acting with the complicity of other governments, has carried out enforced disappearances of terror suspects. Those who commit these crimes have done so with almost complete impunity.

Each enforced disappearance violates a swathe of human rights: the right to security and dignity of person; the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to humane conditions of detention; the right to a legal personality; as well as rights related to fair trial and family life. Ultimately, it can violate the right to life, as victims of enforced disappearance are often killed.

The 30th August is observed each year by Amnesty International and other activists worldwide as the International Day of the Disappeared. We remember those who have disappeared and their relatives, and we take action to get disappeared persons released or charged with a recognizable crime and given a fair trial if they are still in custody. We also seek to bring the perpetrators of enforced disappearances to justice.

Such as in Colombia, where 43 people were abducted on 14 January 1990 from the Pueblo Bello community in Antioquia department by 60 army-backed paramilitaries. This was allegedly in retaliation for the theft of some cattle belonging to a paramilitary commander. The 43 were taken to a farm where they were most probably killed. On the road to the farm, the paramilitaries were not challenged at a military checkpoint, despite reports that screams could be heard coming from the trucks.

Following exhumations, six bodies were identified as victims of the Pueblo Bello abductions. The fate of the other 37 victims remains unknown. Some paramilitaries have been given prison sentences for killing the six people identified. However, the perpetrators responsible for the enforced disappearance of the other victims have gone unpunished.

In January 2006, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights found that the Colombian government had failed to meet its obligations to guarantee the rights of the people affected. The Court made clear that it believed that the armed forces were implicated in the case. It concluded that the state was responsible for fomenting the development of the paramilitary structures and thus creating a situation of risk for the community of Pueblo Bello.

In December 2006, the UN adopted a powerful human rights treaty – the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It aims to prevent enforced disappearances, establish the truth when this crime occurs, punish the perpetrators and provide reparations to the victims and their families.

The international community must now ensure that the Convention is ratified and effectively implemented throughout the world.


Read the stories of more disappeared people:

Dr Faustin Sosso


Colonel Avdo Palic 


Sivasubramanium Raveendranath

 Salah Saker




Disappearances And Abductions 

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