IBAHRI calls on UN Member States to prevent and combat enforced disappearances

Tuesday 30 August 2022

To mark the United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on Tuesday 30 August 2022, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls upon UN Member States to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent, criminalise, investigate and prosecute acts of enforced disappearance, in line with Articles 3, 4, 13 and 14 of the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, stated: ‘We call on UN Member States to uphold international law prohibiting enforced disappearances, intensify the search for disappeared persons, ensure effective investigations into allegations of enforced disappearances and to hold perpetrators to account. We welcome the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rightsadoption of the Guidelines for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in Banjul, The Gambia in May 2022, which reinforce international human rights law and will assist states in eradicating the complex, multidimensional crime of enforced disappearances on the continent.’

Despite being prohibited under international law, enforced disappearances continue at alarming levels worldwide and often with impunity for perpetrators.

The phenomenon is particularly acute in Mexico. As of 17 May 2022, 100,000 people were officially registered as disappeared. According to a recent report by the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED), impunity is almost absolute in the country. According to the State, as of November 2021, between only two and six per cent of cases had been brought before the courts and only 36 judicial sentences had been issued.

It is reported that Sri Lanka has seen the return of state-sanctioned ‘white van’ abduction-style arrests that were common during the 1983–2009 internal armed conflict that resulted in critics and dissidents being subjected to enforced disappearances by agents of the State or government-aligned groups. Against the backdrop of the ongoing protests and the government’s crackdown against peaceful protestors, reports point to a revival of fear of enforced disappearances.

There have also been setbacks and developments regarding the search for disappeared persons around the world. In Brazil, in June 2022, at a public hearing of Congress' Human Rights Commission with victims’ families, it was announced that the Ministry of Human Rights intends to close the Special Commission on Political Deaths and Disappearances, which aims to clarify cases of enforced disappearances that occurred during the military dictatorship, to search for and locate remains, and to provide reparation, despite several open inquiries into the whereabouts of persons disappeared between 1964–1985.

However, in Pakistan, in June 2022, the Islamabad High Court issued a landmark decision that obliges the State to ‘trace the disappeared citizen’ when ‘there is sufficient evidence to conclude that it is, prima facie, a case of ‘enforced disappearance’.


For further information, please contact: the IBA Human Rights Institute at IBAHRI@int-bar.org

Notes to the Editor

  1. In November 2021, the Human Rights Center of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and the IBAHRI submitted a compendium on gaps and advances in the Inter-American system of human rights in relation to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in such contexts to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Rapporteurship on Memory, Truth and Justice. The research was conducted under the framework of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ (IACHR) Specialised Academic Network for Technical Cooperation.
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  3. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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  5. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
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